Georgia’s Center of Political Gravity Shifting Toward AtlantaBreaking News
tags: Georgia, Southern history, political history, Atlanta, suburban history
Now, Atlanta and its suburbs have increasingly become the center of state politics, home to a burgeoning left-leaning electorate that fueled Democratic wins in November and January and the rise of homegrown politicians such as Stacey Abrams, Keisha Lance Bottoms and Jon Ossoff while also harboring a growing number of influential Republicans.
For only the second time since World War II, both of Georgia’s U.S. senators live in metro Atlanta — specifically, diverse neighborhoods inside the Perimeter and south of I-20. And for the first time in decades, Georgia Democrats are the key decision-makers in federal agricultural policy.
The gravitational pull has also drawn the GOP closer to Atlanta in recent years, with the rise of a new wave of Republican figures rooted in the bedroom communities surrounding Atlanta. The 2018 midterms ushered in new statewide leaders who hail from Atlanta or call the region home.
While metro Atlanta has long developed prominent political leaders, many of the state’s most powerful politicians have hailed from far outside the region, in part thanks to a voting system that for decades relied on “county units” and not individual votes to decide elections.
That unbalanced system gave rural areas five times as many assigned units as urban ones and shifted political power firmly away from Atlanta, even long after it was struck down by the courts in 1962.
Jimmy Carter, the governor-turned-president, came from the tiny town of Plains in southwest Georgia, while the Talmadge clan’s base of support was rural southeast Georgia. Former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and David and Sonny Perdue lived a few miles from each other in Middle Georgia. Dozens of other legislative and political leaders relied on their rural appeal to rise to power.
As Republicans swept into power in the early 2000s, Georgia’s political gravity lurched undeniably to the upper third of the state, led by then-Gov. Nathan Deal and then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, both of Gainesville’s Hall County. House Speaker David Ralston, from mountainous Blue Ridge, formed a dominant triumvirate.
“It mirrors national politics,” said veteran GOP strategist Eric Tanenblatt. “Until this election, the federal power in Georgia was rooted in rural Georgia with Sonny Perdue and Tom Graves. Now it’s not.”
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