- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2006

Two redrawn congressional districts in Georgia may help vulnerable Republicans maintain control of the House this year.

Georgia’s 8th and 12th districts currently are held by Democratic incumbents Jim Marshall and John Barrow but were redrawn last year to the benefit of Republicans.

Mac Collins and Max Burns, both former Republican congressmen, are running in the districts, which now reach deeper into more conservative territory.

“Republicans scored two of our top recruitment candidates in Collins and Burns,” said National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokesman Jonathan Collegio.

Most observers see Mr. Collins as the more promising of the two Republican candidates.

“I think Collins is looking better for Republicans than Burns,” said Nathan Gonzales of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

Part of the new 8th District includes areas held by Mr. Collins when he previously served in Congress. The district’s new boundaries were carried by President Bush 61 percent to 39 percent in 2004. Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials already have campaigned on Mr. Collins’ behalf, according to the NRCC.

After serving one previous term, Mr. Burns lost his seat to Mr. Barrow in 2004 by four percentage points. The district has not been redrawn in Mr. Barrow’s favor, but it is still considered to favor Democrats. Mr. Bush lost the district in 2004 with 46 percent of the vote, but carried the new district with 50.4 percent.

“If Republicans are playing too much defense in other areas, they may not have the resources here,” Mr. Gonzales said.

The NRCC disagrees, arguing the redistricting will void any advantage for the Barrow campaign.

“The district had a net eight-point swing. So, that could put Burns ahead right there. And he’ll be running against a candidate who is more liberal,” Mr. Collegio said.

Republicans hope the redrawn district will draw white liberal voters away from the Barrow campaign with the removal of Athens, a university town, from the district.

Burns campaign manager Tim Baker called the redistricting, “a significant help” for Republicans. “Those 11 new counties are more like our base. They are rural and more agriculturally based,” Mr. Baker said.

Both Republican campaigns trail their Democrat opponents in fundraising. But Mr. Collins and Mr. Burns are viewed as having picked up momentum.

Mr. Collins currently has about $700,000 in campaign cash on hand, compared with about $1 million for Mr. Marshall.

Mr. Baker says the fundraising for the Burns campaign has gone “extremely well.” “We’re meeting our goals,” he said. “And we’ll have a strong ticket to run on with Governor [Sonny] Purdue.”

Another Georgia Republican who stands to benefit from the state’s redrawn lines is Rep. Phil Gingrey, whose 11th District was redrawn to make it more conservative.

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