‘Sneak attack’: New map pairs Greene’s district with outraged Cobb residents

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's 14th Congressional District in rural, mostly white northwest Georgia was redrawn during redistricting to take in a diverse section of suburban Cobb County. She's not happy about it, and Cobb Democrats aren't either. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's 14th Congressional District in rural, mostly white northwest Georgia was redrawn during redistricting to take in a diverse section of suburban Cobb County. She's not happy about it, and Cobb Democrats aren't either. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Audrey Allen wrote to every Republican official she could, hoping to keep her Cobb County community under Democratic representation in Washington. She knew the redistricting process can be unpredictable, but she never imagined what ended up happening.

The diverse swath of southwest Cobb where she lives, long held by Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott, was abruptly rerouted to GOP control. And not just any Republican. She’ll soon be represented by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right freshman whose very name has become a byword for bomb-throwing politics.

“It took everyone by surprise. I mean, people are trying to move,” Allen, who is Black, said a few days after the maps were redrawn, still not quite believing what happened. “It’s disenfranchisement season.”

Audrey Allen, a longtime community activist in southwest Cobb County, said she surprised when she found out that redistricting had placed her community within the 14th Congressional District represented by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. “You can only get so mad. You’ve got to set the anger aside and move forward," Allen said. "My new mission is voter registration."

Credit: Associated Press

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Credit: Associated Press

The once-in-a-decade restructuring of political maps caused plenty of upheaval in the state Capitol and the halls of Congress. Legislative districts have disappeared, been squished together or been revamped. Some lawmakers are forced to take on their colleagues in head-to-head matchups, others are simply retiring.

And Republicans designed a district so politically treacherous for U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath that she will mount a primary challenge against a fellow Democratic incumbent rather than try to stay in an unwinnable territory.

But the redrafting of Greene’s northwest Georgia district struck a particularly raw nerve. Greene bashed the new lines as a “fool’s errand that was led by power-obsessed state legislators.” And Cobb Democrats fumed at Republican mapmakers who crammed their slice of Black-majority suburbia in with Greene’s rural district.

“It was a sneak attack,” said state Rep. David Wilkerson, a Democrat who represents the area in the state House.

Behind closed doors

Until this week, when state lawmakers approved a final version of the maps, Greene’s 14th Congressional District spanned a dozen sparsely populated counties in the northwest corner of Georgia. It was overwhelmingly white, rural and Republican. In 2020, President Donald Trump — who lost Georgia and nationally — captured the district by nearly 50 percentage points.

The new boundaries make it slightly less conservative, yet still a safe haven for Republicans. But instead of snatching parts of rural Haralson and Pickens counties, the new boundaries curl around exurban Paulding County to pick up portions of southwest Cobb that include Austell and Powder Springs.

They also just happen to be some of the most solidly Democratic, and most diverse, portions of the suburban county. The area is home to the first Black mayor in Cobb County and the launching pad for the county’s first African American commissioner.

Georgia's 14th Congressional District was redrawn to include a portion of Democratic leaning Cobb County.

Credit: Isaac Sabetai

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Credit: Isaac Sabetai

“South Cobb doesn’t look like anything else in her district,” said Leroy Tre’ Hutchins, a school board member from the area. “We’re focused on tourism, entertainment and service industries. Whatever is going on in northwest Georgia has nothing to do with what’s happening here.”

Some local Democrats quietly acknowledge they wouldn’t have been so bothered if another Republican, such as U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, had become their new representative. But Greene isn’t a typical Republican.

Since winning the U.S. House district last year — after moving from Atlanta’s suburbs to run for the vacant seat — Greene’s history of racist and antisemitic remarks has come into sharper display, as has her long adherence to the conspiratorial QAnon ideology, which she has more recently disavowed.

Anthony Whaley of Powder Springs said he thinks Loudermilk can be “levelheaded and reasonable.” Getting lumped in with Greene, Whaley said, is like a “shotgun wedding or an abusive relative moving into my house because they have no place to go.”

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene isn't happy about how a diverse section of suburban Cobb County was shifted into her 14th Congressional District, a rural and mostly white section of northwest Georgia. She called the move a “fool’s errand that was led by power-obsessed state legislators.” (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

Democrats, along with a handful of Republican lawmakers, took an unprecedented step earlier this year to strip her of her committee assignments after her support for violent conspiracy theories and other incendiary remarks came to light.

But as she predicted it would, her reduced role in Congress only freed her to boost her profile on social media, on far-right outlets and through rallies across the nation with other controversial figures. She’s held recent events in both Iowa and South Carolina — early-voting states in the 2024 presidential contest.

And Greene is now one of the state’s best-known elected officials, much to the chagrin of some GOP leaders embarrassed by her antics. She has amassed a vast following on social media and has become one of the U.S. House’s most prolific fundraisers, netting $4.8 million during the first six months of 2021.

Her public events in Georgia and beyond revolve around praise for Trump and attacks against anyone — Democrats or Republicans — whom she views as an enemy of his legacy. A mainstay of her rallies is the constant promotion of lies about widespread election fraud in the state’s 2020 vote.

“We’ve got to clear something up: Who won the presidential race on Nov. 3 for Georgia?” she asked a crowd of a few hundred at a May town hall meeting in Dalton. In response, the crowd yelled Trump’s name as Greene whooped in approval.

A new ‘bogeyman’

Greene is no fan of the boundaries either, saying that state leaders should have “fortified” Republican-controlled districts to keep them in GOP hands well into the decade rather than try to flip a Democratic seat in the suburbs that she predicted could be fleeting.

“It’s nothing more than a losing strategy that leads into the slow slide of Georgia turning blue,” she said.

In a rare display of consensus with Greene, some Democrats empathized with her.

“I think this is one time when my constituents and hers are on the same page. I don’t think anyone wanted this arrangement except for the people making the maps behind closed doors,” said Wilkerson, the state legislator. “They don’t fit together at all.”

State Republicans, who approved the maps on party-line votes, defended the reconfiguration as an honest effort to keep communities together. State Sen. John Kennedy, a Macon Republican who helped lead the redistricting efforts, said the map “fairly represents all Georgians.”

“You don’t see funky lines and weirdly drawn districts,” he said. “It’s a pretty map because you look at it, and it’s striking visually that it is not gerrymandered.”

State Rep. David Wilkerson, a Democrat, called it a "sneak attack" when the Legislature voted to move a part of Cobb County that he represents into the congressional district represented by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. “They don’t fit together at all,” Wilkerson said. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Democrats and left-leaning groups are certain to contest the map in court. But Democratic officials privately have dim hopes to redraw the lines in Cobb, which would now be split into four congressional districts.

“We are feeling disenfranchised,” said Elliott Hennington, a leader in Austell’s Black community. “When you think of Greene, you think of rural Georgia. You don’t think of someone who can properly represent communities of color.”

If there’s a silver lining for Democrats, it’s the prospect that Greene can be a motivational tool.

Some have already pledged to support one of the long-shot Democrats competing against Greene. Others hope it will help mobilize greater turnout to help statewide candidates next year, when U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock stands for another term and Stacey Abrams is expected to challenge Kemp.

“I don’t think Republicans realize what they’re doing,” said state Rep. Erick Allen, a Cobb Democrat running for lieutenant governor. “It’s not a scare tactic: We now have a real-life bogeyman to get people out to the ballot box in 2022.”

That’s what Audrey Allen, the longtime community activist, is telling herself. She noted how Cobb flipped from a Republican stronghold to a Democratic one in the past five years, and she said she’s committed to registering voters in 2022.

“You can only get so mad. You’ve got to set the anger aside and move forward. My new mission is voter registration,” Allen said. “And there will be a day when this district will go blue, and then we’ll say, ‘You should have left us alone.’ ”

State Rep. Erick Allen, a Cobb County Democrat who is running for lieutenant governor, said Republicans erred by moving a part of the county into U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's district. “We now have a real-life bogeyman to get people out to the ballot box in 2022,” Allen said. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta J

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Credit: Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta J

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