WASHINGTON – More than a dozen black Democrats teamed with white Republicans in Georgia's House to pass a redistricting blueprint that could give Republicans a better chance to win seats in Congress.
The plan, drawn up by Democratic state Rep. Ben Allen, passed Wednesday despite the objections of powerful House Speaker Tom Murphy, also a Democrat. It still must go through the state Senate.
"I can't help but believe the African-Americans will see what they've done and wake up. I don't think they realized they were joining the Republicans so thoroughly," Murphy said.
Georgia now has 11 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, eight held by Republicans and three by Democrats. The state will gain two more seats in the next election because of its population growth.
Murphy had offered his own plan on how to redraw congressional district lines, one that some Democratic leaders said would give Democrats a strong shot at taking a majority of the state's seats in the U.S. House. But 18 Democrats -- 17 of them black -- supported Allen's substitute plan instead. They were joined by most of the Republicans.
Allen's plan draws the House districts in such a way that a majority of the seats become GOP strongholds, many legislators said.
Allen, a 47-year-old attorney from Augusta, admitted his map was crafted to give him a good shot at winning a planned congressional race in 2002.
But the black Democrat made no apologies, saying it's a good idea to intentionally create heavily minority districts in order to get more blacks in Congress, even if other districts in the state are left more heavily Republican. By contrast, Murphy's plan would have moved many black voters into other districts, giving Democrats a better shot at winning more than three seats next year.
"Our party should be strong enough that we don't have to force people of color into all different districts, because without them the Democrats won't win," Allen said.
The proposal now goes to the state Senate, where Democratic leaders plan to substitute their own map for the House plan. Then a House-Senate conference committee will try to resolve differences.