Monday, October 29, 2012

Regina Quick Waiting on Oconee County Board of Commissioners to Offer Advice On Redistricting

New Maps Examined

Regina Quick, unopposed on the Nov. 6 ballot in the newly created 117th House District, says she is waiting on advice from the Oconee County Board of Commissioners before moving forward on her campaign promise to try to re-unite Oconee County in a single House district.

“If they make the request, I’ll do everything in my power to make that change,” Quick told me in a telephone conversation yesterday. She was referring to the members of the Commission.

“I think I need some clear direction,” she said. “I don’t want to overstep.”

Quick 7/10/2012

Quick made the reunification of Oconee County into a single House district a promise of her campaign for the Republican Party nomination.

She told the Oconee County Republican Party in February that taking action to overturn the changes made in the 2011 redistricting would be one of the first she would do if elected.

District Created in 2011 Session

In the special redistricting session in August of 2011, the House created the 117th District so that it would lean Republican and make it easier for Doug McKillip from Athens to retain a House seat.

McKillip, an Athens attorney who ran as a Democrat in 2010 in the old 115th House District, switched parties before the General Assembly met in 2011, angering many of his constituents.

Quick defeated McKillip in the July Republican primary.

The new 117th includes three precincts from Oconee County as well as parts of Barrow, Clarke and Jackson counties. The precincts of Athens Academy, Malcom Bridge and Bogart in the north of Oconee County became part of the new district. (I live in the Athens Academy precinct.)

In turn, Clarke County voters were moved to the new 119th.

Oconee County had been whole and the dominant part of the old 113th House District but is a minority partner to Clarke County in the new 117th and 119th districts.

Quick Said Majority She Met Favor Change

Quick told me the overwhelming majority of Oconee County voters she has talked to are opposed to the current districts, but she feels she needs to hear from the Board of Commissioners, which represents the entire county.

BOC Chairman Melvin Davis spoke against partitioning the county before the House passed its redistricting bill, but he was cautious about revisiting the issue when I spoke with him by telephone today.

“If I had my preference, I would have preferred that Oconee County remain whole,” he said. “I would like to see that again, but I also understand there are a lot of players in the system now.”

He said he wasn’t sure how much receptivity there is to revisiting the district boundaries in the leadership of the General Assembly.

“That issue is something that will probably require some discussion in Atlanta,” he said. He added that Jackson and Barrow counties also should be involved.

Williams Also Must Agree

Chuck Williams, who represented the old 113th during the redistricting session and is on the ballot unopposed for the new 119th District seat next month, also will have to agree to revisit the issue.

Williams told me on Oct. 20 that he had suggested to Quick that “we sit down with the legislative leadership and see if they are going to have any appetite for redistricting.”

Williams said what he and Quick learned was that there is “not a strong desire to reopen redistricting.”

Williams said he remains “open” to making changes and has looked at alternative maps for the two districts.

Quick told me that she and Williams had met with “folks in the reapportionment office” in Atlanta to review the redistricting options.

She stressed that these discussions only involved the 117th and 119th districts and that, in her view, it was a “matter of just shifting population” between the two districts.

Horton Initiated Discussion in August

Oconee County Commissioner Chuck Horton suggested back in August that the BOC pass a resolution endorsing the proposal that Oconee County be brought back into a single district.

Davis at that time said such a resolution was premature. He said he was meeting with Quick and Williams the following week and would discuss the issue with them. Horton also attended that meeting.

Horton told me today that Williams and Quick agreed at that meeting that they would explore the options in Atlanta.

Horton said he felt “the vast majority of the people” supported Quick when she made her campaign promise during the primary election. “I would work with her if I could,” he added.

Meeting Nov. 14 Could Include Discussion

The BOC, the Board of Education, mayors and council members in the county, and members of the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce are scheduled to meet with Quick, Williams and Sen. Bill Cowsert on Nov. 14 to discuss the upcoming legislative session. Cowsert represents Oconee County in the Senate and, like Quick and Williams, is a Republican.

Davis told me today he expects the question of redistricting to come up at that session, though there is no formal agenda and thus no time set aside specifically for discussion of the topic.

Davis said he hopes to have time at the end of the session for citizens to make comments.

That meeting will be begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Community Center at Oconee Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road.

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