Some of Greene’s Cobb constituents see redistricting as way to fix a bad match

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shares the stage with Former President Donald Trump during the GOP Convention at the Columbus Georgia Convention & Trade Center shown on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Natrice Miller/natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shares the stage with Former President Donald Trump during the GOP Convention at the Columbus Georgia Convention & Trade Center shown on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Natrice Miller/natrice.miller@ajc.com)

News that the Georgia Legislature will have to redraw the state’s congressional district lines was welcomed by many people in the southwestern part of Cobb County who this year became new constituents of controversial Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Residents of southwest Cobb, which includes the mostly Black cities of Austell and Powder Springs, said they were shocked in 2021 to learn the Republican-led General Assembly had drawn them into the 14th Congressional District, which stretches north through western Georgia to the Tennessee border.

But things could change after a federal judge ruled that Georgia’s congressional and legislative maps violated the Voting Rights Act of of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in elections. The Legislature has until Dec. 8 to produce the new political maps.

Specifically, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones told lawmakers to create a fifth majority-Black congressional district located in west metro Atlanta. And the makeup of the 14th District was one he said should be addressed.

The Legislature drew the lines of Greene’s district in a way that pulled racially diverse parts of Cobb County that had been part of a majority-Black, Democratic district into her northwest Georgia district — which is drastically less diverse and represented by a far-right Republican congresswoman. About 61,000 Cobb County voters were moved into Greene’s district.

U.S. House district map for Georgia approved in 2021.

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

Deborah Douglin, a Black resident of Powder Springs who works in real estate, said she was “blindsided” when she was drawn into Greene’s district in 2021. Douglin was previously in the 13th Congressional District 13, represented by with Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott as her representative.

“I believe that gerrymandering has got us stuck with somebody who absolutely, in no shape or form, represents who I am, what we think or what we would want,” Douglin said. “Especially with the actions that we have seen her do. I’m totally embarrassed that she is my representative.”

Greene’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

‘She is very popular’

Further north in neighborhoods such as McEachern Woods and Lost Mountain, support for Greene remains high, GOP representatives said. Salleigh Grubbs, chairwoman of the Cobb County GOP, said she doesn’t know any Republican voters in Greene’s district who are unhappy with her representation and would want to lose her as their congresswoman.

“Everyone I know personally in MTG’s district would be very upset,” she said. “She is very popular.”

Greene has been a controversial figure from the time she entered national politics in 2020, drawing the ire of Democrats and even some Republicans who felt her headline-grabbing rhetoric made her the wrong person to represent northwest Georgia.

Earlier this year, after an argument with fellow U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman — a Black Democrat from New York — Greene equated Bowman calling her a white supremacist to “calling a person of color the N-word.”

Last year, while campaigning for former President Donald Trump in Nevada, she used rhetoric associated with the “great replacement theory,” a conspiracy thesis that has been spread by white nationalists that nonwhite immigrants will eventually displace native-born white Americans.

Before she ran for election, Greene claimed a wildfire in California was started by a laser “beamed from space and controlled by a prominent Jewish banking family with connections to powerful Democrats.”

Her public events in Georgia and beyond are heavy on praise for Trump and attacks against anyone — Democrat or Republican — 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 presidential election, in which Democrat Joe Biden beat Trump.

Since she was elected in 2020, Greene has not only increased her national profile but become one of the state’s best-known elected officials. She has amassed a vast following on social media and has become one of the U.S. House’s most successful fundraisers.

New districts

In his ruling last month, Jones said the maps, as drawn in 2021 by a Republican-led General Assembly, violated the law.

His decision means that millions of voters across the state could find themselves assigned to different districts before next year’s elections. Each of Georgia’s 14 districts must have roughly the same number of residents, about 765,000.

An example map created by an expert witness for the plaintiffs shows one way the state could be redistricted when a special legislative session begins Nov. 29. State lawmakers haven’t released their proposed maps.

Possibilities include shifting the boundaries of Greene’s 14th District, something that some residents in the Austell and Powder Springs areas said they hope happens.

Residents say Greene is rarely seen in southwest Cobb. She hosted a “local government services day” in Powder Springs in August, though state Rep. David Wilkerson, a Democrat from the city, said her functions in southwest Cobb aren’t well attended because of her controversial comments.

Elliott Hennington, a Black Powder Springs resident who is a plaintiff in the challenge of Georgia’s maps, said he’s not been able to contact Greene since she was elected.

“I’m hopeful of getting drawn into a district with somebody who is going to represent us fairly,” Hennington said. “She hasn’t come to speak to her constituents to see what we need or desire. I’m not being represented if I don’t get a chance to (talk to) my elected officials.”

Greene may welcome the changes to her district. In 2021, when the draft maps were released, she bashed the new lines as a “fool’s errand that was led by power-obsessed state legislators.” Instead of adding Democrats to her district, Greene said, lawmakers “should have fortified GOP districts for the long term instead.”

Black voting power

Jones’ ruling found that the state’s maps illegally weakened the political power of Black voters, something Wilkerson said was evident in the way the 14th Congressional District was redrawn. “To take Austell and Powder Springs, both majority-Black cities previously in David Scott’s 13th District, and put them in the 14th District is a clear example of diluting the voting power of those Black voters,” he said.

The 14th District had a Black population of about 14% and a white population of about 69% as of 2022, according to U.S. census estimates. Black residents made up nearly two-thirds of the neighboring 13th District, previously the home of many of Greene’s new southwest Cobb constituents.

Austell and Powder Springs are among the most solidly Democratic, and most diverse, portions of Cobb County. Powder Springs, for example, elected the county’s first Black mayor, Al Thurman, in 2015.

Jerry Houston, a community activist who lives in unincorporated Powder Springs, said it never made sense to lump southwest Cobb voters into Greene’s uber northwest conservative district.

“When you have her district normally voting for (someone like) her, and then when we vote, we don’t have a great chance at winning,” he said. “And that’s why people say our votes don’t count, because it’s diluting us.”