Commentary: South Georgia's Diminishing Political Clout

Charlie Harper

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Moultrie is about as South Georgia as you can get. It lies in the middle of a patch of land about equal distances from Tifton, Valdosta, Albany and Thomasville.

Or as those of us from Atlanta might say, it’s the kind of place you would have to go to on purpose.

Moultrie is also the home of two-term Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who surprised most by announcing on Friday that he would not seek a third term.

Instantly, the 2014 campaign season has begun to not only replace him, creating instant contests to fill the seats of those who will no doubt move up to replace him. Like it or not, this campaign season will be 22-plus months long.

Tom Price, Republican congressman from Roswell, is making phone calls in preparation of an announcement. Others, including former Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel, are preparing to fill that void.

Others considering the Senate race include most of Georgia’s other Republican congressmen. Jack Kingston, Lynn Westmoreland, Austin Scott, Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey and Tom Graves are said to be looking. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, one of the highest Republican vote-getters in 2010, is making it clear he may be a candidate.

For South Georgia, however, the outcome favors yet another seat of power moving significantly north. Austin Scott has some experience running statewide, but isn’t likely to run if several of the more experienced Congressmen decide to take the leap. Jack Kingston is revered in coastal Georgia, but despite his 20 years of service is little known in the highly populated metro Atlanta and North Georgia areas where most Republican primary votes are generated.

In all likelihood, the three or four front runners are going to live in or north of the metro Atlanta area. Vote totals show that the math is now clearly on the side of those above I-20. The top three Congressional districts from the 2010 Presidential Preference Primary were the 9th (Gainesville), 6th (Roswell), and 11th (Woodstock). All mostly north of I-285 and generating over 90,000 votes each. By contrast, the South Georgia districts of 1 (Savannah), 2 (Southwest Georgia), 8 (Macon) and 12 (Southeast Georgia) generated 55,000, 41,000, 61,000 and 58,000, respectively.

It was not too long ago when South Georgia ruled Georgia politics. Now, there is exactly one statewide elected official from south of the metro Atlanta area. That person is Doug Everett, Public Service commissioner from Cordele. It should be noted that PSC members must be elected from a district in which they reside. That may be the only reason there remains a South Georgian elected statewide at all.

South Georgia remains an integral and important part of the state, from the largest portion of the state’s economy (agriculture) to the thriving and growing ports. Yet, politically, change has come rapidly to the region. The clout has shifted northward.

This is not to say that the southern part of the state will not have clout. Rather, this area will need to learn how to use the clout they have differently.

It will require more work, more strategy and the formation of strategic alliances.

Charlie Harper lives in Atlanta and edits the Peach Pundit political blog.




About Charlie Harper

Charlie Harper is a Marietta Georgia based conservative-leaning policy and political strategist.