Oconee County Democrats were polite and supportive of Kimberly Clark Reuter as she spelled out her positions on the issues she plans to focus on in her campaign for the Democratic nomination in the open U.S. 10th Congressional District.
They also were clearly dubious of the likely success of her venture.
Reuter, one of two declared candidates for the Democratic nomination, no doubt would face an uphill battle in the race to replace Jody Hice, who has stepped down to run as former President Donald Trump's endorsed candidate for Secretary of State.
Republican leaders of the Georgia Senate on Monday night released a draft map with new boundaries for all 14 of Georgia’s Congressional Districts, and an analysis of the change suggests District 10 will become even more Republican if the map is approved.
Hice has won by large margins in each of the three races where he has had competition in the current 10th District, though his percentage had declined slightly.
The identity of the Republican nominee also is unknown, with a large number of candidates competing.
Reuter was preceded in the Democratic Party September virtual meeting by William Boddie, who currently represents District 62 in the Georgia House of Representatives and is a candidate for State Labor Commissioner in 2022.
The draft map released on Monday made significant changes to the 10th Congressional District.
|Proposed Map Released 9/27/2021|
Clarke County, split between the 9th and the 10th Congressional Districts in 2011, would be made whole again in the 10th if the Senate map is approved.
Jackson, Madison, and Elbert counties would be moved from the 9th to the 10th District.
Columbia, split between the 10th and the 12th Districts in 2011, would be entirely in the 12th if the new map is accepted.
McDuffie, Warren, Glascock, Jefferson, Johnson, and Washington counties also would be moved from the 10th to the 12th District.
The new 10th District would be more compact and more centered geographically around Athens and Oconee counties.
Nature Of Change
Georgia gained population with the release of the 2020 Census data, to 10,711,908 residents from 9,727,566 in 2010, but the gain was not enough to earn a new Congressional seat.
The population growth was not uniform across the state, with urban areas, including Oconee and Clarke counties, gaining, and rural areas losing population.
An equal division of the population, as is required, would result in districts with 765,136 residents.
The proposed new 10th Congressional District includes only a small part of Gwinnett County as well as parts of Newton County, Henry County, and Baldwin County.
The existing 10th District contained more of Gwinnett County, parts of Newton and Henry counties, and all of Baldwin County.
Without more detailed maps than were released on Monday, it isn’t possible to know the population of the 10th District as proposed.
Reuter, 33, was raised in Loganville but currently lives outside the 10th District in Johns Creek in Fulton County. It is not necessary for a U.S. representative to live in the District she or he represents.
Reuter told the Sept. 16 virtual gathering of the Oconee County Democrats that she suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident when she was 10 years old.
“I have worked hard to overcome the hardships associated with the TBI,” she said, “but it has changed the way I see the world. Life is fragile and should not be taken for granted.”
Reuter said she was raised by a single mother from age 10, started and dropped out of college, and then returned to college “while working full-time, having a family, and caring for an ailing grandmother.”
Reuter said she earned her bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University.
“I just want to run to help Georgia move in a direction that benefits everyone,” she said. “It’s infuriating watching representatives in Washington so dispassionately disregard the will and well being of the people to appease their top dollar donors or to create drama.
“As your representative I will take my unwillingness to quit to Congress with me,” she said, “and I will not rest until Georgians are better off than they are now.”
Reuter On Policy
“I will continue advocating for health insurance and a livable wage,” Reuter said.
“Many, many people struggle without having the money to afford their medication or their treatment,” she said. “And some people will even find themselves in major debt if they find themselves with a serious illness.
“For these reasons I advocate for universal health care,” Reuter said. “We must join other nations in providing health insurance to every citizen as a human right.”
“Public education should begin with a publicly funded pre-K program and should go through a publicly funded bachelor’s degree program,” she said.
“I will do anything within my power to ensure that all children are funded equally regardless of zip code,” Reuter said. “I will always fight for sustainable, safe, and upgraded infrastructure to be a reality.”
Infrastructure is more than roads and bridges, Reuter said. It includes water pipes, drainage pipes, parks, sidewalks, transit systems, and broadband.
“I also believe that human infrastructure is important,” she said. “Childcare is something that is paramount as we have seen through this pandemic."
Reuter said “jobs training programs should be available for those who do not wish to attend college” and “paid family and medical leave should be available to all workers.”
The first question posed to Reuter from the 19 people on the Zoom session dealt with the challenge for a Democrat running in the 10th Congressional District, and nearly every question that followed also referenced the heavily Republican District.
“So Georgia 10 is not an easy District to be successful in,” Oconee County Democratic Party Vice Chair Eric Gisler said. “So why focus on Georgia 10? It’s tough,” he said.
“Honestly, it’s because Georgia 10 is what I know,” Reuter said. “I have been out of Georgia 10 for about three years.”
“It is the District in Georgia that I know the best,” Reuter said, “and that’s where I wanted to run.”
John Phillips asked Reuter which of the issues that she raised did she expect will “resonate best with moderate Republicans and Independents.”
“Infrastructure is generally something that everybody can come together on,” Reuter said.
Boddie’s 62nd State House District is made up of parts of Fulton and Douglas counties. He has been in that seat since 2017.
Boddie, an attorney, said he was running because “I want to help Georgians, period.”
Boddie said when the state shut down in the early days of the pandemic in 2020 he and other legislators started getting calls and messages from citizens.
“This was coming from concerned citizens who wanted to know what going on with their unemployment benefits,” he said.
“Myself and other state legislature became almost like de facto employees of the Georgia Department of Labor because the doors to the Department of Labor were closed, the phones were off, no one was responding to emails,” he said.
“It makes no sense that citizens have to wait months and months and months to get a service that should be supplied by the state of Georgia and get it in a very timely fashion,” he said.
“Unemployment benefits is not a handout. It is a safety net,” he said. “If you lose your job through no fault of your own, including a pandemic or economic recession, the state of Georgia and Department of Labor should help you to get through that economic crisis in your life so you can get to the next job opportunity.
“So as the next labor commissioner I plan on doing that,” he said.
Plans For Labor Department
Boddie said the Department of Labor is relying on antiquated equipment that has not been updated since Michael Thurmond, the last Democrat in that office, stepped down in 2010.
“We need to make sure that if another economic recession, pandemic hits the state of Georgia, that we have the adequate technology to communicate with the U.S. Department of Labor to get any surplus or stimulus package or economic recovery money that needs to get directly to the citizens of the state of Georgia in a timely manner,” Boddie said. “And I will make sure that we will do that.”
Boddie said he wants to expand the number of career centers in the state.
Under Thurmond, Boddie said, the state had 66 career centers, but Republican Mark Butler, who replaced Thurmond and currently holds the position, cut that number to 40.
Butler also has cut the staff from more than 4,000 employees to 1,800, Boddie said.
That included managers, IT workers, supervising staff, workers at the career centers, and members of the fraud unit, he said.
Boddie said the Department of Labor has two responsibilities, dealing with claims and assisting with workforce development.
“What I want to do,” Boddie said, “is make sure we partner with the labor unions and their apprenticeship programs throughout the state, with the high school career centers and career academies throughout the state, also with the technical colleges of Georgia to make sure we have a very robust process of getting citizens trained and retrained so they can have livable wages.”
Boddie said the state has too many workers holding two or three jobs to survive.
“We need to make sure that our citizens have a quality of life because they are making livable wages so they can spend more time with their families and they can be healthier at the same time,” he said.
Analysis Of Existing 10th District
The 10th Congressional District was radically changed in 2011 when the General Assembly, under Republican control, added a 14th Congressional District for the state. (Click on the charts below to enlarge them.)
In that redistricting, Clarke County was split, with part moved to the 9th District and the other half attached to the 10th District.
Prior to 2011, Clarke County had been whole in the 10th District.
Republicans dominated the old 10th Congressional District (prior to redistricting in 2011) and after.
The incumbent Paul Broun got 67.4 percent of the vote in 2010, the last time he ran in the old 10th District, and he ran unopposed in 2012.
In 2014, Jody Hice, in his first race after Broun stepped down, received 66.5 percent of the vote in the District. His Democratic opponent was Ken Dious. Hice ran unopposed in 2016.
Of the 14 Congressional Districts in Georgia, only the 7th is really competitive, and the 10th is more competitive than many. The average winning vote across the 14 districts in 2020 was 66.4, or just a little more than Hice received.
Impact Of Proposed Map
Democrat Johnson-Green carried five counties in 2020, with Clarke the largest. She lost her home county of Washington by seven votes.
The proposed Senate map would remove Columbia (currently only partly in the District), Glascock, Jefferson, Johnson, McDuffie, Warren, and Washington from the 10th District.
Of those, Johnson-Green carried only Jefferson, and the average vote for Hice in those seven counties was 60.7 among a total of 45,932 votes cast.
In 2022, District 9 Republican Congressman Andrew Clyde carried Elbert County with 69.8 percent of the vote, Jackson County with 80.6 percent of the vote, and Madison County with 77.5 percent of the vote.
The addition of those four counties would add–based on the 2020 vote–66,327 votes, and Clyde got 73.6 percent of them.
Since the District also is proposed to lose some of Gwinnett County, that change is likely to be even greater.
Clearly Reuter or any other Democrat is going to have a tough time in the 10th District in 2022 if this map becomes final.
At present, the discussion has focused on the 6th District and the impact the changes would have on incumbent Democrat Lucy McBath.
According to Ballotpedia, Phyllis Hatcher, an Atlanta businesswoman and pastor, also has declared for the Democratic nomination for the 10th Congressional District.
The map released by the Senate on Monday would move incumbent District 9 representative Clyde from Athens out of that District and into the 10th, though he can run in the 9th District without living there.
Ballotpedia lists 10 Republican candidates, including former Representative Paul Broun, as competing for the 10th District.
The Oconee Republican Party has scheduled a forum for Oct. 25 at Hidden Estates At DGD Farms, 1112 Cliff Dawson Road, for all candidates for the 10th Congressional District seat. (The announcement states there are 13 candidates.)
Tim Bryant from WGAU radio will moderate, according to the announcement.
Kathy Hurley, party chair, has not indicated if she will allow independent recording of the session or if the session will by broadcast on WGAU.
The Oconee County Republican Party held its meeting on Monday night at DGD Farms with scheduled speakers Vernon Jones, a candidate for Governor, and David Belle Isle, a candidate for Secretary of State.
In the past, I have written about Republican speakers when they appeared at party meetings and would like to do so now, but the party does not live stream its sessions, and Hurley will not allow me to arrange to have the meetings recorded.
The video below is from the recorded Zoom session of the Oconee County Democrats on Sept. 16.
I attended the virtual meeting.
Boddie began his comments at 16:30 in the video.
Reuter began speaking at 41:14 in the video.