Regina Quick, the unopposed Republican candidate in Georgia House District 117, has taken initial steps to fulfill one of her primary campaign promises: to introduce legislation that would overturn the redistricting passed by the General Assembly in its special session in 2011 splitting Oconee County between two House Districts.
Quick is scheduled to meet with Chuck Williams, the unopposed Republican candidate in Georgia House District 119, and with Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis on Tuesday and to discuss her campaign promise at that session Quick told me in a telephone conversation on Thursday that she will move forward with her plan “if that is the pleasure of folks, if that is what local government wants.”
Three Precincts Split Off
The General Assembly, in its redistricting session following release of results from the 2010 U.S. Census, split off three northern Oconee County precincts–Athens Academy, Malcom Bridge and Bogart–and added them to parts of Clarke, Barrow and Jackson counties to form the new 117th District.
All of Oconee County’s 13 precincts had been in the 113th, and Oconee County had not been split between districts since 2004.
The July 31 primary, in which Quick defeated Doug McKillip to become the Republican Party nominee on the Nov. 6 ballot, was the first election conducted based on the new district lines.
McKillip had been elected in the old 115th as a Democrat, but he switched parties before the 2011 session began.
McKillip’s home address was included in the new district, which, based on past voting records, heavily favored the Republican Party.
Quick Made Promise in Primary
It was during the July 31 primary race that Quick made her promise to try to put all of Oconee County back into a single House district.
The video clip below is from a candidate forum on July 20, 2012.
Quick told me on Thursday she had not discussed her plans with Williams “and did not know what position” he will take on her plans.
Williams Open to Discussion
I talked with Williams on Friday, and he told me he is open to discussions with Quick.
“I am willing to pursue it if governments and citizens want to,” he said. He did say he thought it would be “a pretty complicated issue in and of itself.”
The fundamental problem, he said, is that Oconee County, with 32,808 residents according to the 2010 Census, is not large enough for its own House District, so it is going to have to be joined with parts of some other county.
In the new 119th, Oconee County is joined with Clarke County, which contributes slightly more than half of the residents to the district.
Oconee County also is a minority party in the 117th, with Clarke County again the dominant part.
In fact, Quick was elected in the primary because she received enough votes in Clarke County to offset her loss of the three Oconee County precincts as well as the parts of Barrow and Jackson counties in the district.
Williams had no opposition in the July 31 primary, and the Democratic Party did not field a candidate to run against him in the Nov. 6 general election.
Quick said during the primary she would seek to create a new district that put the three Oconee County precincts of Athens Academy, Malcom Bridge and Bogart into the 119th and that parts of the 119th in Clarke County would be put into the 117th to compensate.
Williams, who is from Oconee County, said since the new boundaries of the 119th have been drawn “my focus has been on reaching out to the government and citizens of Clarke County.”
Williams said he had been in favor of “keeping Oconee County whole” when the redistricting session began, but he has said that when he joined that session following a special election in July of 2011 much of the redistricting work already had been done.
He did vote in favor of the redistricting bill when it passed at the end of the special session.
Tuesday Meeting Details Not Set
Quick told me the details of the Tuesday meeting had not yet been worked out when I talked with her on Thursday.
The existence of that meeting came to light at the Board of Commissioners meeting last Tuesday, when Commissioner Chuck Horton said he had talked with Quick following the July 31 election and learned she did intend to follow up on her promise to revisit the composition of her district.
Horton suggested that the BOC pass a resolution supporting her, since “all of us were of that leaning.”
Davis said he had a meeting scheduled with Quick and Williams–though he could not remember the date–and he asked if the commissioners would be willing to wait until after he met with the two representatives before considering a resolution.
Horton agreed to that delay.
Davis told the Joint House and Senate Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee back in May of 2011 that he wanted Oconee County to remain in single legislative district after House redistricting was completed.
Quick Says Goal Realistic
“I believe it is a realistic goal,” Quick told me of her plan to change the lines for the 117th and the 119th districts. “It is involving Oconee County and Athens-Clarke County only. The leadership in Oconee County requested this in the redistricting process.”
Any change in the House district lines would have to be approved by the Senate as well as the House. Both chambers usually defer to the local delegation.
I attempted to reach Sen. Bill Cowsert, who represents Oconee County in the Senate, on Friday to ask him about Quick’s plan.
He was busy with depositions in Atlanta the whole day, he told me, but he would try to call me if he had a break. I have not yet heard back from him.
Cowsert called me on Sept. 3 and told me that he had not been aware of Quick's campaign promise or plans to revisit redistricting.
He said he would not expect to be involved in any discussions about changes in the House districts because the Senate and House do not interfere in each other's redistricting.
Any redistricting bill would have to pass the Senate, he said, but "we would rubberstamp whatever the House passes."