- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2001

ATLANTA (AP) — Trying to reverse Republican gains over the past decade, Georgia Democrats announced a congressional redistricting plan yesterday that features several winding districts connecting far-flung Democratic areas.

Although Georgia Democrats have controlled both houses of the General Assembly and the governor's mansion since Reconstruction, Republicans took eight of the state's 11 congressional seats in the 1990s. With two seats being added because of population gains, Democratic leaders want new lines that will give the party a chance to win six or seven seats.

Republican state Sen. Tom Price called the map an unprecedented example of partisan gerrymandering and "an embarrassment to the state."

Democrats have acknowledged they are trying to turn the clock back on GOP gains in the last decade but said the map reflects the state's population and voting patterns.

The assembly is meeting in special session to redraw legislative and congressional districts, as required after every census.

The map, unveiled and quickly approved yesterday by the Senate Reapportionment Committee, would create three new Democratic-leaning districts: one in western Georgia, one circling metropolitan Atlanta and a third that stretches nearly 200 miles, connecting Athens and Augusta with a thin tail extending to Savannah.

"My 4-year-old nephew can draw lines straighter than this," said Republican Jack Kingston, the congressman who represents most of coastal Georgia. Mr. Kingston and John Linder are the GOP incumbents hurt most by the plan.

Mr. Kingston, overwhelmingly re-elected last year, would have to campaign in middle Georgia and in Macon, a majority black city where the white Republican is a virtual unknown. Mr. Linder's district was split between two other Republican incumbents, but he said he is not too worried because the map still could be changed.

The remaining Republican incumbents may have an easier time. Democratic estimates say many of the GOP-leaning districts are now 60 percent to 70 percent Republican.

The Justice Department must review the plan to ensure it does not dilute minority voting strength.

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