Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Witnesses Offer Support for Keating Redistricting Plan

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Witnesses Offer Support for Keating Redistricting Plan

Article excerpt

A farmer, a preacher and chamber of commerce leaders testified on congressional redistricting Monday as a judge was urged to merge communities with similar interests when redrawing district lines.

Nine witnesses appeared before Oklahoma County District Judge Vicki Robertson to express support for a redistricting plan supported by Republican Gov. Frank Keating that they said recognizes the state's diverse agricultural, economic and cultural interests.

Democrats have criticized the plan as an attempt to protect Republican incumbents.

Russell Perry, special assistant for economic development to Keating and publisher of The Black Chronicle newspaper in Oklahoma City, urged Robertson to reject a plan adopted by the Democrat- controlled Senate that chops up predominantly black areas in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.

Under the Senate plan, northeast Oklahoma County would be part of the mostly rural 3rd Congressional District in southeastern Oklahoma, the area known as "Little Dixie" that Perry described as a traditional pocket of racism toward blacks.

"It would be a severe racist area for African-Americans," Perry said. "It has been and I think still is."

Perry, who frequently raised his voice to make a point, said he also disagrees with splitting a predominantly black area in north Tulsa and putting it in the 2nd Congressional District, made up predominantly of northeast Oklahoma.

Perry, a businessman, said he frequently drives through an area in Delaware County in the northeastern corner of the state where a sign advertising the Ku Klux Klan has been prominently displayed. "I don't think that's conducive to African-Americans," Perry said.

Perry and the Rev. George Young, pastor of Holy Temple Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, said they support Keating's plan because it keeps Oklahoma and Tulsa counties largely intact.

Perry said the "hip-hop" culture of urban blacks would not mix well in rural areas that might play a major role in electing a congressman for the district. "They are a different people. Whole culture is different. Whole body language is different," Perry said.

Robertson has agreed to consider five redistricting proposals during the trial, including the Senate plan and the one supported by Keating. …

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