Athens Rep. Doug McKillip says the rumor floating around Oconee County that he has a deal with House Speaker David Ralston to create for himself a more Republican district including parts of Oconee County is false.
“No ‘deal’ exists,” McKillip wrote to me in an email message. “We are very early in the process-- just started taking public input at meetings around the state.
“While no one knows how all the lines will look--I am sure the new districts will be fair, sensible and constitutional.”
McKillip was responding to my question, which I sent to him by email. I wrote:
“A rumor is circulating in Oconee County. I have heard it from more than one person.
“According to the rumor, you intend to try to change the lines for the 115th District to incorporate parts of Oconee County, and you have reached a deal with Speaker Ralston to that end.
“Would you please tell me if the rumor is correct?”
I sent that message on the evening of May 18. McKillip wrote back the afternoon of the next day.
McKillip represents the 115th District, one of two districts in the Georgia House of Representatives that lies entirely in Clarke County. He was elected in 2006, 2008 and 2010 as a Democrat, but he switched to the Republican Party before the start of this year’s legislative session.
Oconee County lies entirely in the 113th District, but that district also includes parts of Clarke, Morgan and Oglethorpe counties.
Oconee County votes Republican, while Clarke usually votes Democratic.
McKillip has made two recent public presentations in Oconee County. On May 10, he appeared before the Oconee County Board of Commissioners at its regular meeting.
On May 19, the day he sent me his email reply, he appeared before the Oconee County Republican Party at its candidate forum.
His message was the same at both settings. He said he was offering his services to people in the county while the county is without a state representative.
Hank Huckaby, elected to represent the 113th District last year, resigned in April to become Chancellor of the University System of Georgia. The legislature is out of session but is expected to go back into session in August to deal with redistricting.
A special election is being held in the 113th District on June 21, and two of the three Republican candidates–Alan Alexander and Sarah Bell--were at the May 19 Republican forum. The third, Chuck Williams, was sick.
The 113th contains two southern Clarke County voting districts, Barnette Shoals and Whit Davis. It also contains Winterville, which is in eastern Clarke County.
All of Whitehead Road voting district on the far west of Clarke County is part of the 113th, as is most of Timothy Road district, also in the west.
The 115th abuts two Oconee County voting districts, Mars Hill and Friendship.
The 114th, represented by Keith Heard, a Democrat, does not border Oconee County.
A Joint House and Senate Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee held the first of 12 scheduled hearings on May 16 in Athens at the University of Georgia.
McKillip is secretary of the House part of the committee and was present at that meeting.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis spoke early in the session, stating that he hoped that Oconee County would not be split. I spoke a few minutes later and supported that position.
Williams and Bell also were present, but they did not speak.
Dan Matthews, running as a Democrat in the June 21 election, spoke near the end of the session and said he supported keeping Oconee whole or, if that is not possible, merging it with Clarke in a new district.
A number of Athens/Clarke County citizens living in the 113th District complained that they were separated from each other and from the rest of the county and asked that the 113th District lines be changed.
Of course such a rumor will get started. It's the nature of the beast and simply part of a long history of amusing gerrymandering.
So what is supposed to be the quid pro quo? There is none.
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