Congressman John Linder surprised everyone over the weekend with the news that he won’t run for re-election this fall. The Republican from Gwinnett County was first elected to the U.S. House in 1992.
If we can take a cue from the large GOP field to replace Nathan Deal, who’s retiring from Congress to run for governor, there will be a lot of Republicans interested in a solidly Republican seat (it went for McCain 60 percent to 39 percent in 2008 and for Bush 70-30 in 2004).
Then again, there is an X-factor involved in a seat representing Gwinnett County: redistricting.
Georgia is projected to gain a 14th seat in Congress after this year’s Census and the subsequent reapportionment process. And no district in Georgia has seen faster population growth than Linder’s: just over 43 percent since 2000, according to 2008 population estimates. It doesn’t take a gerrymanderer to see that the new seat is likely to be squeezed into that northeast corner of metro Atlanta.
Will potential candidates wrestle with that factor as they decide whether to throw their hats in the ring? On the one hand, incumbency has its advantages, even if the incumbent’s district is altered. So, it would be easier to run in 2012 having won in 2010. And losing in 2010 could still increase a candidate’s name recognition for 2012 when there’s a brand-new seat to run for.
On the other hand, potential candidates who are in the Legislature might prefer to stay there and have a hand in drawing the new maps — and then run.
Redistricting will be one of the leading political fights in Georgia over the next two years. Consider Linder’s retirement one of the first fronts.