Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Murphy Congressional Map Loses House Votes for Plan of Augusta Democrat

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Murphy Congressional Map Loses House Votes for Plan of Augusta Democrat

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Williams, Times-Union staff writer

ATLANTA -- In an unexpected blow to Democratic leaders, the Georgia House yesterday rejected a congressional map drawn up by Speaker Tom Murphy in favor of an alternative sponsored by a rank-and-file Democrat from Augusta.

The House voted 85-83 for Rep. Ben Allen's plan, one of a handful of alternatives that had been turned down by the House redistricting committee on Tuesday.

Allen, who plans to run for one of two newly created congressional seats, picked up support from 18 fellow black Democrats and all but one Republican, enough to overcome the Democrats' superior numbers in the House.

After the vote, he was reluctant either to take credit for the outcome or to view it as a yardstick measuring Murphy's clout with House members.

"People honestly looked at the two maps and decided one was better than the other," Allen said. "That's why we got the coalition we got. Hopefully, we can keep it intact."

Lawmakers adopt a new congressional map every decade to accommodate changes in population patterns that show up in the census. Georgia will add two new districts -- the 12th and 13th -- because of the state's rapid growth during the 1990s.

The two maps debated yesterday have much in common. Both keep the vast majority of coastal Georgia within the 1st Congressional District, a seat held by Republican Jack Kingston of Savannah.

Both contain a new district centered in Augusta, the seat Allen is eyeing, and both put the Athens area and Columbia County together in the 10th District now represented in Congress by Republican Charlie Norwood of Evans.

But Murphy's map contains two features that depart significantly from the way Georgia's congressional districts now are divided.

In keeping with the Democratic leadership plan in the Senate, he drew a new district running through portions of nine counties along the Perimeter Highway just outside Atlanta. It's designed to gather up Democratic precincts that aren't included in the black-majority districts represented by Democrats John Lewis of Atlanta and Cynthia McKinney of Decatur.

The speaker's map also reshapes the 8th Congressional District and centers it on Macon, giving middle Georgia a district all its own for the first time in decades. …

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