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Forsyth: A County Divided

The Georgia General Assembly adjourned Wednesday, but not before approving congressional boundaries that splits Forsyth County in half despite opposition from Senators Jack Murphy (R-27) and Steve Gooch (R-51).

The Georgia Senate passed the congressional boundaries that split Forsyth County in half Wednesday, effectively killing all hope voters had of electing a Forsyth County resident to the U.S. Congress.

Senators approved the boundaries by a vote of 34-21 on the final day of the special legislative session with Senators Jack Murphy (R-27) and Steve Gooch (R-51) voting in opposition.

The map still must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department for preclearance under the Voting Rights Act.

Murphy and Gooch, said while the map is good for Georgia, is certain to pass constitutional muster and be precleared by the federal court, they could not in good conscience vote for it.

"My obligation is to my constituents and they are not pleased with the congressional map that splits Forsyth County between District 7 and District 9," Murphy said. "The ones I talked to made that perfectly clear. They are the ones who put me in this office and I owe it to them to vote the way they want me to vote."

Voters in South Forsyth will now be represented by 7th District Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett) while voters in the northern half of the county will join 12 other counties in the electing a new 9th District Congressman.

Gooch, who represents the northern section of Forsyth as well as Dawson and Lumpkin counties, said, "I supported the State House and State Senate maps but I could not support the Congressional map because of the negative feedback from my constituents.

"I was voted into office by my constituents and I am only accountable to them," he said. "Many of them are unhappy that the Congressional map splits Forsyth and Pickens Counties into two districts. Many are also not pleased they they’ve been moved out of the current 9th Congressional District represented by Tom Graves."

Passage of the boundaries was a bitter disappointment to the county's political leaders who lobbied the state delegation for months in an effort to keep the county from being divided.

State Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-23) who, along with State Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-27), voted to approve the boundaries in the House of Representatives, said he knows some people are upset with his vote.

"I'll say there was a small group that was very upset," he said. "Most people didn't understand the process that goes on and how it works. There is a misconception out there that a no vote would have helped Forsyth County, I disagree."

Hamilton said he voted for it because it is good for Georgia. "Overall, it's a good map for Georgia, even though it doesn't give (Forsyth County) what we wanted. That's why I voted for it. I wasn't necessarily happy with it."

Now that the General Assembly has adjourned and legislators are returning to their home districts, Hamilton and Dudgeon may face just how angry voters are.

District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent was the first to speak out. "I'm very disappointed they didn't vote against it," he said. "Every single person I spoke to asked that the county be kept whole. So, I am extremely disappointed they didn't vote the way their constituents wanted them to."

Forsyth County Tea Party founder Steve Voshall said, "For our elected state representatives to vote yes to approve that map is a slap in the face. No one from our state delegation should have voted yes for this map. They should have represented their constituents needs and not the needs of the state politicians. Forsyth County had the fifth largest turnout of Republican voters during the last presidential election. These state politicians need our votes, but then they treat us this way."

Democratic Party Chairwoman Sharon Gunter said, "When the entire county, comes together and can agree on what is in the best interest of our county, this should be the voice that the representatives echo."

Gunter added, "It looks like we have a few rogue employees with an agenda of their own that need to be dealt with. Of course reviews are done on an individual basis, and will be addressed as they come due starting November. 2012."

Hal Schneider September 01, 2011 at 07:54 PM
Yet another example of how tone deaf our representatives are! Hamilton and Dudgeon will find out in the next election that their voting record WILL have consequences!
Bill September 02, 2011 at 09:51 AM
People I have talked to have expressed a tremendous amount of disappointment in the vote cast by our two representatives. To no one's surprise, state Rep. Doug Collins of Hall County announced Thursdayy that he is a candidate for the new 9th Congressional District. Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle are both from Hall County and the governor, in particular, is said to be backing Collins. Forsyth County's population is now almost the same as Hall County. Had Forsyth County been kept whole, it would have made it much more difficult for Collins to be elected. While no elected official would admit it, it is very likely there was pressure from the governor to make sure Forsyth County's vote was split.
Liz Kennedy (Editor) September 02, 2011 at 03:06 PM
Hi Patcher's - don't forget to take the poll at the bottom of this article!
SOGTP September 02, 2011 at 10:46 PM
This is the first time in history since Forsyth County was created that it was split between two districts. It was founded in 1832 and the 9th district created in 1873.

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