POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. – Less than a 30-minute drive from Atlanta, Powder Springs embodies the changes that are transforming Georgia’s policies. Shops and restaurants owned almost exclusively by black owners are located along the center of town and are visited by a growing population of young and racially diverse residents. The suburban city elected its first black mayor in 2015, and the county where it is located, the former Republican stronghold of Cobb, voted for President Biden by 14 percentage points in 2020.
There’s another big change: Powder Springs, a black city with a majority, may soon be represented in Congress by Marjorie Taylor Greene.
This development, the result of new district maps drawn by state legislators in Georgia, was part of a Republican effort to dull the power of Democrats. But for residents, the prospect of Powder Springs and another predominantly black suburb, Austell, being represented by perhaps the most right-wing Republican in Congress raises issues that go beyond party politics. Some say they have little confidence that Ms. Greene will give them the same attention and respect she gives her white, Republican voters, and fears their vote in Congress will not speak for them.
“It’s about having someone who will take your phone calls, who will work on your behalf, who will worry about what’s happening to your children, who will worry about making sure you get to your job, “said State Representative David Wilkerson, a black Democrat who lives in and represents the communities that are now drawn into Ms. Greens Congress District. “That’s what people are looking for.”
The newly drawn 14th Congress District is the result of a tactic called “cracking”, the practice of splitting blocs of voters and spreading them across multiple districts to dilute their voting power. It is common and lawful under federal law unless it has been found by a court to be deliberately used to prevent voters of the same race from electing a representative of their choice.
Ms. Greene, best known as the bomber on social media, has not said much about how she would represent the communities new to her district if she wins re-election 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 was being made a little less Republican, and she called the redistribution process a “foolish affair led by power-hungry state legislators.” Instead of adding Democrats to its district, she said, lawmakers should “instead have fortified GOP districts in the long run.”
Ms. Greene won her seat by more than 50 percentage points in 2020, and her district remains pink under the new cards. It will still stretch through Georgia’s predominantly white and rural landscape all the way to its mountainous Tennessee border. Powder Springs and Austell, with their total population of under 25,000 people, will stand like a lonely blue corner in a sea of red in the new 14th District.
Admittedly, lots of Democratic voters around the country are represented by Republicans and vice versa. But some voters see Ms. Greene’s brand of republicanism as a particular insult. The congresswoman has followed the QAnon conspiracy theory and questioned whether the 9/11 attacks and school shootings were real – comments that got her expelled from the congressional committees of the Democratic-led House.
She faces a legal challenge to her candidacy after a group of voters in Georgia sued to remove her from the ballot. The group claims that her comments in the days leading up to the January 6 attack on the Capitol, including calling the day “our 1776 moment,” helped spur the riots. Ms. Greene testified that she referred to the “courage to protest” against the election result, but she did not call for violence.
What you need to know about redistribution
In February, Ms. Greene at a rally organized by a prominent white supremacy. She later defended her appearance and called the criticism an attempt to “cancel” her.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene represents the opposite of what we believe,” said Robert Richards, a former Army pilot and Baltimore police officer who now works as a senior head of the federal government. He has lived in Powder Springs since 2016. “Her rhetoric, her behavior, her discourse in Congress, her discourse, quite frankly, as an American is just something that is just reprehensible.”
For more than a decade, Powder Springs and Austell have been represented by Representative David Scott, a black Democrat whose district included parts of Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs. Mr. Scott’s new district now includes a larger portion of the suburbs south of Atlanta.
Most people engage with their legislators on routine issues, such as the rapid renewal of passports, social security service requirements, Veterans Affairs inquiries, or locally targeted legislation. Ms. Greene’s ability to legislate has been limited by the fact that she has been deprived of committee duties. Much of the legislation she has sponsored is aimed at making political points, such as the “Fire Fauci Act” and a decision to put President Biden in court. But none of the bills she has sponsored this legislative session are specific to the 14th District.
At a March meeting she hosted in her district, she boasted of having voted down every single piece of legislation supported by Democrats.
Mr. Wilkerson, the state legislature, said he was most concerned about a possible disruption in communications between his office and Ms. Greene’s in Washington to resolve constituent issues. He said he had not heard from her office since the passage of the new cards last fall.
Henry Lust, a Powder Springs City Councilor, said: “Our cities are growing, we have significant developments being put on the table and starting to be implemented. We have a bright future. We do not want to see the bright future derailed.”
Ms. Greene has also alienated some conservatives. She has drawn five Republican challengers for Georgia’s primary election on May 24. One, a small business owner, Jennifer Strahan, has run as a conservative without drama – and has helped her gain the support of several Republican leaders in the district, including four out of five of the commissioners in one of its largest counties. She says she would reconnect the district with Washington.
This is how American redistricting works
What is redistribution? It is the redrawing of the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts. It happens every 10 years after the census to reflect changes in the population.
“By restoring service to this and not being so focused on being a celebrity on social media, it allows us to bring value back to people,” Strahan said, noting that she and Mrs. Greene share “some overlap” in their faith. as conservatives. Ms. Strahan follows Ms. Greene in fundraising and has struggled to increase his profile.
In Powder Springs and Austell, some residents are organizing themselves to try to unfold the political muscles they have. DeBorah Johnson, chairman of the Austell Community Task Force, a typical apolitical community group, has led an effort to encourage more Cobb County voters to vote in next month’s primary election. Ms. Johnson said she found the congressional woman’s comments about the January 6 attack particularly worrying.
“She felt like it was just something that should have been swept up under the rug and not considered a riot,” Ms. Johnson. “It was big in my eye.”
A handful of residents, including Mr. Richards, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s new card. The lawsuit, filed in December, alleges the new lines were drawn specifically to dilute the influence of black voters and violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act by not allowing an additional black majority district in southern Cobb County. The case is unlikely to be decided before the primary election.
In early April, hundreds of Cobb County residents gathered for “Taste of Mableton,” a first-of-its-kind spring festival featuring food trucks, live performances and stands for dozens of community groups. The event was set up in the shadow of a large billboard for Mr. Scott and aimed to strengthen ties between the residents of the small community, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic kept many at bay.
The mention of Ms. Greene’s new territory next door was greeted with nervous laughter and eyes rolling among those at the festival who were aware of the change. Those who learned it for the first time reacted with indignation 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 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 redistributing just to fit their own needs without getting input or buy-in from people in the area – the people who want to be represented in a fair and equitable way.”