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South Georgia losing political influence
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Going into the 2010 census, it was generally understood that Southwest Georgia, with its population stagnant, would take a political blow once the numbers from the census were used to determine the distribution of seats in the General Assembly and Congress.

With the population steadily growing in metro Atlanta, the political tilt that had once leaned heavily toward agricultural areas was expected to move even further in the Atlanta direction. And it did.

The one advantage that rural Georgia still maintained politically was the longevity of many of its legislators in a governmental system that gives some considerable benefit to seniority. That advantage is also eroding this year.

State Sen. George Hooks, D-Americus, announced that he would not seek at 17th term in the state Senate. Hooks has served in that chamber since 1991, and came into the Senate with the seniority advantage of having been a representative in the state House for 10 years before that. His departure at the end of his term, which expires in January, means that 32 years of legislative experience departs with him. ...

That comes after another longtime legislator, state Rep. Bob Hanner, R-Parrott, announced at the end of the legislative session in late March that he is leaving the Gold Dome when his term expires in January. Hanner, who left the Democratic Party two years ago to become a Republican, will mark his 37th year in the state House in September, having initially won his seat in a special election to complete the term of office of his predecessor. ...

“One of the most difficult challenges we have here in South Georgia is a stagnant population,” Hooks said. “My district alone was 30,000 to 40,000 people down, and that’s significant when you look at the enormous population growth around Atlanta. There are districts up there whose population has doubled, and most of the people are transplants who have no idea about the problems of our region.” ...

Making sure Southwest Georgia’s needs and concerns are heard and acted on has not been an easy job for some years now, and it will be more difficult with fewer representatives and senators who will be heading from our region to Atlanta this January.

May 14, Albany Herald

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