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Rockdale, Newton to gain state reps

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Georgia House Reapportionment Committee

COVINGTON - Newton and Rockdale counties will gain two state legislators based on redistricting maps that were approved by the State House and Senate Thursday.

Newton will gain a state senator and state representative based on population growth data from the 2010 Census. Newton's population was reported at 99,958, up from 62,000 in 2000.

House District 113 is the new district number for Rep. Pam Dickerson, D-Conyers, and includes the eastern Rockdale County and the western portion of Newton.

Newton will also get a second Senate seat, district 43, whose incumbent is Sen. Ronald B. Ramsey Sr., D-Decatur. The district includes most of Rockdale County and portions of north and west Newton, including Oxford, Porterdale and some of Covington.

Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-Locust Grove, of the 17th District, lost a bit of Newton, but still maintains the majority of the county. Jeffares lost Walton County but gained a portion of Rockdale and Henry counties.

"Just because you don't live in my precinct doesn't mean you can't call me. Whether I've got a big portion of your county or a little portion doesn't mean I don't represent it all," Jeffares said.

He added he believes Newton will benefit from additional legislators.

"I think it gives citizens another person to call and bend their ear if they have a problem. Even if they're not in my precinct, I hope they feel comfortable they can still call me," he said.

Rep. Andy Welch, R-Locust Grove, lost much of Newton County in the 110th. Welch could not be reached for comment.

District 109 has been shifted into Newton. The incumbent is Rep. Steve Davis, R-McDonough. Davis will also represent Barksdale and southern half of Magnet in Rockdale County.

Also, in Rockdale County Rep. Pam Stephenson will represent district 90 that includes only the Lorraine precinct in Rockdale County. Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler is now in district 91 with a slight increase in Rockdale County precincts.

The northern portion of Rockdale County is now represented by Rep. Len Walker, R-Loganville.

Rep. Doug Holt, R-Social Circle, picked up a bit more of Newton and the remainder of Morgan counties, but his district was the least impacted.

"My experience of the process is that it has been very open and flexible. I've had repeated opportunities to discuss the maps with both the reapportionment staff and the committee members. Since my district didn't have to change all that much in the first place, I guess it is no surprise that it has emerged largely the same in the present proposal," he said. "As to having more representation in the General Assembly, I think both the House and Senate maps are a win for Newton, because the Newton voter counts for both Senate districts and two of the House districts will be very significant. Had the county been divided up entirely into smaller parcels holding no preponderance for any legislator, that would've been a problem for us.

"The House and Senate approved their respective maps on Thursday and, per tradition, will rubber stamp each other's maps. This is the first time that Republicans have controlled the redistricting process from start to finish. Democrats have objected to the redrawn lines, saying the GOP is trying to purge the state of white Democrats by forcing them into primary match ups, in many cases against black lawmakers.

Once approved by the General Assembly, the maps are sent to the Department of Justice. Legislators are expected to turn their attention next week to congressional maps. Georgia will gain a congressional seat due to population growth.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.