Why 2 Majority Black Towns Can Land in Marjorie Taylor Greene’s District

POWDER SPRINGS, Georgia — Less than a 30-minute drive from Atlanta, Powder Springs embodies the changes that are reshaping Georgian politics. Shops and restaurants owned almost entirely by black owners line its town center and are frequented by a growing population of young residents and of various races. The suburban town elected its first black mayor in 2015, and the county where it sits, the former Republican stronghold of Cobb, voted for President Biden by 14 percentage points in 2020.

There’s another big change: Powder Springs, a majority black city, may soon be represented in Congress by Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The development, the result of new district maps drawn by Georgia state lawmakers, was part of a Republican campaign aimed at blunting the power of Democrats. But for residents, the prospect that Powder Springs and another predominantly black suburb, Austell, will be represented by perhaps the most far-right Republican in Congress raises questions that go beyond partisan politics. Some say they have little confidence that Ms. Greene will give them the same attention and respect she gives to her white and Republican constituents and fear that their voice in Congress will speak for them.

“It’s about having someone who’s going to take your phone calls, who’s going to work on your behalf, who’s going to care about what happens to your kids, who’s going to care about making sure you get to your work,” said state Rep. David Wilkerson, a black Democrat who lives and represents communities now drawn to Ms. Greene’s congressional district. “That’s what people are looking for.”

The newly drawn 14th congressional district is the result of a tactic called “cracking,” the practice of breaking up blocks of voters and scattering them across multiple districts to dilute their voting power. It is common and legal under federal law unless a court finds it was deliberately used to prevent voters of the same race from electing a representative of their choice.

Ms Greene, who is best known as a bomb-thrower on social media, said little about how she would represent new communities in her district if re-elected in November. She did not respond to requests for comment.

In November she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she was unhappy that her district had been made a little less Republican, calling the redistricting process “a race of fools run by power-obsessed state legislators.” Rather than adding Democrats to her district, she said, lawmakers “should have instead fortified GOP districts for the long haul.”

Ms Greene won her seat by more than 50 percentage points in 2020 and her district will remain bright red under the new maps. It will still stretch through Georgia’s predominantly white, rural countryside to its mountainous border in Tennessee. Powder Springs and Austell, with their combined population of less than 25,000, will stand as a single blue wedge in a sea of ​​red in the new 14th Ward.

Certainly, many Democratic voters across the country are represented by Republicans, and vice versa. But some voters see Ms. Greene’s brand of republicanism as a particular affront. The congresswoman has followed the QAnon conspiracy theory and questioned whether the 9/11 attack and school shootings were real — comments that got her ousted from congressional committees by the US-led House democrats.

She is facing a legal challenge to her candidacy after a group of Georgian voters filed a lawsuit to remove her from the ballot. The group says its comments in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, including calling the day “our moment in 1776,” helped spark the riot. Ms Greene testified that she was talking about the “courage to oppose” the election results, but that she was not calling for violence.

In February, Ms Greene spoke at a rally organized by a prominent white supremacist. She later defended her attendance, calling the critics an attempt to “cancel” her.

“Marjorie Taylor Greene represents the antithesis of what we believe,” said Robert Richards, a former Army pilot and Baltimore police officer who now works as a senior federal government official. He’s lived in Powder Springs since 2016. “Her rhetoric, her behavior, her speech to Congress, her speech, quite frankly, as an American, is just something that’s just reprehensible.”

For more than a decade, Powder Springs and Austell were represented by Representative David Scott, a black Democrat whose district included parts of Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs. Mr. Scott’s new neighborhood now includes more of Atlanta’s southern suburbs.

Most people engage with their legislators on routine issues, such as expedited passport renewals, applications for Social Security benefits, veterans issues, or locally targeted legislation. Ms. Greene’s ability to legislate was limited by the fact that she was stripped of her committee duties. Much of the legislation she has sponsored aims to make political arguments, such as the “Fire Fauci Act” and a resolution to impeach President Biden. But none of the bills she has sponsored this legislative session are specific to the 14th district.

At a March rally she held in her district, she boasted that she had rejected every bill backed by Democrats.

Mr. Wilkerson, the state legislator, said he was very concerned about a possible breakdown in communication between his office and Ms. Greene’s office in Washington to address voter issues. He said he hasn’t heard from his office since the new cards were adopted last fall.

Henry Lust, a Powder Springs councilman, said, “Our cities are growing, we have significant developments that are on the table and starting to be implemented. We have a bright future. We don’t want to see this bright future derailed.

Ms Greene has also alienated some conservatives. She has drawn five Republican challengers for the May 24 primary in Georgia. One, small-business owner Jennifer Strahan, has portrayed herself as a drama-free conservative – helping her win the support of several Republican leaders in the district, including four of the five commissioners from one of her most large counties. She says she would reconnect the neighborhood to Washington.

“By restoring the service and not focusing so much on being a social media celebrity, it allows us to put people back in value,” Ms. Strahan said, noting that she and Ms. Greene share “ some overlap” in their beliefs. as curators. Mrs. Strahan follows Mrs. Greene in fundraising and struggles to gain exposure.

In Powder Springs and Austell, some residents are organizing to try to show political strength. DeBorah Johnson, the chairwoman of the Austell Community Task Force, a generally apolitical community group, has led a campaign to encourage more Cobb County voters to vote in next month’s primary election. Ms Johnson said she found the MP’s comments about the January 6 attack particularly concerning.

“She felt like it was just something that should have been swept under the rug and not considered a riot,” Ms Johnson said. “It was big in my eyes.”

A handful of residents, including Mr. Richards, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s new maps. The lawsuit, filed in December, argues that the new lines are drawn specifically to dilute the influence of black voters and violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by not allowing an additional majority black district in the south of the county. of Cobb. The case is unlikely to be decided before the primary elections.

In early April, hundreds of Cobb County residents gathered for the “Taste of Mableton,” a one-of-a-kind spring festival featuring food trucks, live performances and booths for dozens of community groups. Set in the shade of a large billboard for Mr Scott, the event aimed to bring people closer to the small community, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic kept many away.

The mention of Ms Greene’s new territory next door prompted nervous laughter and eye rolls among festival attendees who were aware of the change. Those who first learned of it reacted with outrage and confusion.

Elliott Hennington, a community leader who is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, described the redesigned district as “shameful” and “very disrespectful” to the voters who are now part of it.

“They were shocked, surprised,” he said in an interview behind the Austell Community Task Force stand. “People are just redrawing constituencies just to suit their own needs without getting input or buy-in from local people – the people who would like to be represented fairly and equitably.”

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