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Lawsuit Imminent as Kemp Signs Controversial Commission District Map

A comparison of the current commission districts to those proposed by Republicans. Credit: Jerry Shannon

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a Republican-drawn map of new Athens-Clarke County Commission districts last week, and Democrats are expected to file a lawsuit challenging it in the coming days.

“I do anticipate a lawsuit,” said Mayor Kelly Girtz, who will be joining other city and county leaders at a press conference Wednesday whose districts are being unilaterally redrawn by Republican lawmakers.

“We have retained counsel and are actively raising money for the legal fund,” said Commissioner Tim Denson, chair of the Athens-Clarke County Democratic Committee.

Denson is one of three commissioners, along with Melissa Link and Russell Edwards, who would lose their seats as a result of the new map because they’re shifted into even-numbered districts that won’t be on the ballot until 2024, creating three open seats.

Kemp signed the redistricting measure, House Bill 890, on Thursday. It was pushed through by four Republicans in Athens’ five-member legislative delegation: Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens), Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville), Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) and Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville). They cited a lack of consensus on the commission regarding a locally drawn map, which passed by a 7-3 vote in December.

Alarmed that three incumbents would be ousted and two-thirds of voters moved to new districts by the Republican map, the commission later voted 8-2 to support an alternative put forward by Democratic Rep. Spencer Frye. His map was also supported by local Democrats and the ACC Board of Elections.

Last weekend, Dexter Fisher announced he would seek the open District 5 seat in northwestern Athens, where Denson cannot run again. Fisher worked in facilities management at UGA for 30 years before becoming chief of services for the Clarke County School District.

On Monday, UGA librarian and Flagpole contributor Matthew Pulver also announced he would run for the seat as a progressive Democrat.

District 3, which has been moved from the Boulevard area to the Winterville area, and District 7 along the Oconee County border are the two other open seats.

Some news regarding a lawsuit could come at the Wednesday press conference in Lawrenceville, which will feature officials from Cobb, Gwinnett, DeKalb and Augusta-Richmond counties in addition to Girtz.