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Why 2 Largely Black Cities May Land in Marjorie Taylor Greene’s District

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POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. — Lower than a 30-minute drive from Atlanta, Powder Springs embodies the changes reshaping Georgia politics. Shops and restaurants owned almost entirely by Black proprietors line its downtown center and are frequented by a growing population of young and racially diverse residents. The suburban city elected its first Black mayor in 2015, and the county where it sits, the previous Republican stronghold of Cobb, voted for President Biden by 14 percentage points in 2020.

There may be one other big change: Powder Springs, a majority Black city, may soon be represented in Congress by Marjorie Taylor Greene.

That development, the results of recent district maps drawn by Georgia state legislators, was a part of a Republican drive to blunt Democrats’ power. But for residents, the prospect of Powder Springs and one other predominantly Black suburb, Austell, being represented by perhaps essentially the most far-right Republican in Congress is raising questions that transcend partisan politics. Some say they’ve little trust that Ms. Greene pays them the identical attention and respect that she gives to her white, Republican constituents and fear their voice in Congress won’t speak for them.

“It’s about having someone that’s going to take your phone calls, who’s going to work in your behalf, who’s going to care what happens to your kids, who’s going to care about ensuring you get to your job,” said State Representative David Wilkerson, a Black Democrat who lives in and represents the communities now drawn into Ms. Greene’s congressional district. “That’s what individuals are in search of.”

The newly drawn 14th Congressional District is a results of a tactic called “cracking,” the practice of breaking up blocs of voters and scattering them across multiple districts to dilute their voting power. It’s common and legal under federal law, unless found by a court to be deliberately used to forestall voters of the identical race from electing a representative of their alternative.

Ms. Greene, who’s best generally known as a bomb-thrower on social media, has said little about how she would represent the communities recent to her district if she wins re-election in November. She didn’t reply to requests for comment.

In November, she told The Atlanta Journal-Structure that she was unhappy that her district was made barely less Republican, calling the redistricting process a “idiot’s errand that was led by power-obsessed state legislators.” Somewhat than add Democrats to her district, she said, lawmakers “must have fortified G.O.P. districts for the long run as an alternative.”

Ms. Greene won her seat by greater than 50 percentage points in 2020 and her district will remain vivid red under the brand new maps. It is going to still stretch through Georgia’s predominantly white and rural countryside all of the method to its mountainous Tennessee border. Powder Springs and Austell, with their combined population of under 25,000 people, will stand as a lone blue corner in a sea of red in the brand new 14th District.

To make certain, loads of Democratic voters across the country are represented by Republicans, and vice versa. But some voters see Ms. Greene’s brand of Republicanism as a specific affront. The congresswoman has followed the QAnon conspiracy theory and questioned whether the Sept. 11 attack and faculty shootings were real — comments that got her ousted from congressional committees by the Democratically led House.

She is facing a legal challenge to her candidacy after a gaggle of Georgia voters sued to remove her from the ballot. The group argues that her comments in the times leading as much as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, including calling the day “our 1776 moment,” helped incite the riot. Ms. Greene testified that she was referring to “the courage to object” to the election results but was not calling for violence.

In February, Ms. Greene spoke at a rally hosted by a distinguished white supremacist. She later defended her attendance, calling criticisms an try to “cancel” her.

“Marjorie Taylor Greene represents the antithesis of what we consider,” said Robert Richards, a former Army pilot and Baltimore police officer now working as a senior federal government executive. He has lived in Powder Springs since 2016. “Her rhetoric, her demeanor, her discourse in Congress, her discourse, quite frankly, as an American, is just something that’s just reprehensible.”

For greater than a decade, Powder Springs and Austell have been represented by Representative David Scott, a Black Democrat whose district included parts of Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs. Mr. Scott’s recent district now features a larger share of the suburbs south of Atlanta.

Most individuals engage with their lawmakers on routine matters, equivalent to a fast-tracked passport renewal, Social Security advantages claims, Veterans Affairs queries or locally targeted laws. Ms. Greene’s ability to legislate has been limited by her being stripped of committee duties. Much of the laws she has sponsored is aimed toward making political points, equivalent to the “Fire Fauci Act” and a resolution to question President Biden. But not one of the bills she has sponsored this legislative session are specific to the 14th District.

At a March rally she hosted in her district, she boasted about having voted down each piece of laws backed by Democrats.

Mr. Wilkerson, the state lawmaker, said he was most concerned a couple of possible cutoff in communication between his office and Ms. Greene’s in Washington to handle constituent issues. He said he had not heard from her office since passage of the brand new maps last fall.

Henry Lust, a Powder Springs city councilman, said, “Our cities are growing, we’ve significant developments which can be being placed on the table and beginning to be implemented. We now have a vivid future. We are not looking for to see that vivid future derailed.”

Ms. Greene has also alienated some conservatives. She has drawn five Republican challengers for Georgia’s May 24 primary. One, a small-business owner, Jennifer Strahan, has run as a no-drama conservative — helping her garner support from several Republican leaders within the district, including 4 out of 5 of the commissioners in one in every of its largest counties. She says she would reconnect the district to Washington.

How U.S. Redistricting Works

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What’s redistricting? It’s the redrawing of the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts. It happens every 10 years, after the census, to reflect changes in population.

How does it work? The census dictates what number of seats in Congress each state will get. Mapmakers then work to be sure that a state’s districts all have roughly the identical variety of residents, to make sure equal representation within the House.

Who draws the brand new maps? Each state has its own process. Eleven states leave the mapmaking to an outdoor panel. But most — 39 states — have state lawmakers draw the brand new maps for Congress.

If state legislators can draw their very own districts, won’t they be biased? Yes. Partisan mapmakers often move district lines — subtly or egregiously — to cluster voters in a way that advances a political goal. This known as gerrymandering.

Is gerrymandering legal? Yes and no. In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal courts don’t have any role to play in blocking partisan gerrymanders. Nonetheless, the court left intact parts of the Voting Rights Act that prohibit racial or ethnic gerrymandering.

“By restoring service to this and never being so focused on being a social media celebrity, it allows us to bring value back to people,” Ms. Strahan said, noting that she and Ms. Greene do share “some overlap” of their beliefs as conservatives. Ms. Strahan trails Ms. Greene in fund-raising and has struggled to boost her profile.

In Powder Springs and Austell, some residents are organizing to attempt to flex what political muscle they’ve. DeBorah Johnson, the chairwoman of the Austell Community Task Force, a typically apolitical community group, has led a drive to encourage more Cobb County voters to solid ballots in next month’s primary election. Ms. Johnson said she found the congresswoman’s comments in regards to the Jan. 6 attack particularly concerning.

“She felt like that was just something that ought to have been swept up under the rug and never considered a riot,” Ms. Johnson said. “That was big in my eye.”

A handful of residents, including Mr. Richards, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit difficult Georgia’s recent maps. The lawsuit, filed in December, argues that the brand new lines are drawn specifically to dilute Black voters’ influence, and violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by not allowing for a further majority-Black district in south Cobb County. The case is unlikely to be decided before the first election.

In early April, a whole bunch of Cobb County residents gathered for the “Taste of Mableton,” a first-of-its-kind spring festival, featuring food trucks, live performances and booths for dozens of community groups. Arrange within the shadow of a big billboard for Mr. Scott, the event aimed to strengthen ties between residents of the small community, particularly after the Covid-19 pandemic kept many distant.

Mention of Ms. Greene’s recent territory round the corner was met with nervous laughter and eye rolls amongst those on the festival who were aware of the change. Those learning of it for the primary time responded with outrage and confusion.

Elliott Hennington, a community leader who can also be a plaintiff within the lawsuit, described the redrawn district as “disgraceful” and “very disrespectful” to the voters now a part of it.

“They were shocked, surprised,” he said in an interview behind the Austell Community Task Force booth. “Persons are just redistricting simply to fit their very own needs without getting input or buy-in from people in the world — the individuals who would love to be represented in a good and equitable manner.”

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