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Researching Congressional Delegation
2nd Congressional District of Georgia
The current U.S. House of Representative for the 2D Congressional District of Georgia is Sanford D. Bishop Jr., who is of African-American descent. First elected in 1992, Rep. Bishop is currently serving his 8th term (Barone and McCutcheon, 2011, p. 445) and is running for reelection in 2012 (Project Vote Smart, 2012a). Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Rep. Bishop was destined for academia with a father serving as a community college president and a librarian for a mother (Barone and McCutcheon, 2011, p. 446). After attending Morehouse College in Atlanta and serving as student body president, he sang at Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral. He then became an award winning law student at Emory University and interned with the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund for a summer in New York City (Bicknell and Meyers, 2011, p. 268). A stint in the Army followed graduation and after spending a year in New York, Bishop established a civil rights law practice in Columbus, GA. Notably, a lawsuit on behalf of prisoners in a state prison in 1972 resulted in court-ordered changes. By 1976, at the age of 29, Bishop was elected to the Georgia House, where he served for the next 13 years.
In 1992, Bishop ran against a White Democratic incumbent for the U.S. House of Representatives (Barone and McCutcheon, 2011, p. 445-447). The incumbent, Charles Hatcher, admitted to accumulating 819 overdrafts on the House Bank and was defeated by Bishop during the primary. Bishop went on to win the general election against Republican Jim Dudley with 64% of the vote. Since then, Bishop has confronted a serious challenger for his House seat only twice. In 2000, a former aide to George H.W. Bush and Republican National Committee staffer Dylan Glenn, an African-American, received 46% of the vote to Bishop's 54%. Even though the 2005 redistricting was expected to lower the chances of serious challengers, in 2010, Republican State Representative Mike Keown garnered 48.6% of the vote to Bishop's 51.4% (Bicknell and Meyers, 2011, p. 268).
The 2d Congressional District of Georgia is fairly equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, but tends to favor Democrats (Barone and McCutcheon, 2011, p. 446). The district supported Gore in the 2000 Presidential election (52%), but President Bush during his reelection bid in 2004 by less than 1000 votes.
Formally a region of plantations, the 2d Congressional District remained predominantly White until redistricting in 2005 (Barone and McCutcheon, 2011, p. 445-447). The district is now 48% African-American and 45% White (Bicknell and Meyers, 2011, p. 268). The area's economy depends heavily on agriculture, of which peanuts, cotton, and tobacco are the main crops. Close to 42% of the district's population lives in rural areas (Barone and McCutcheon, 2011, p. 445-446). The district is also home to a large military presence, including the Army's massive infantry training base Fort Benning. Manufacturing and healthcare are other major employers in the district (Bicknell and Meyers, 2011, p. 268).
Rep. Bishop's position as the top Democrat for the Agriculture and Legislative Branch, and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, subcommittees for the Appropriations Committee, made him ideally positioned to benefit his district through earmarks (Bicknell and Meyers, 2011, p. 267). His seat in the Appropriations Committee has also created problems for Bishop, after investigators in Georgia discovered several of Bishop's relatives working for a child-mentoring program that received over $100,000 in federal funding. Bishop's unapologetic and aggressive use of earmarks to benefit his district has ended though, after the Republican majority ended this practice.
A self-proclaimed "fiscally responsible Democrat," Rep. Bishop belongs to the Blue Dog Coalition, a predominantly White fiscal conservative group (Bicknell and Meyers, 2011, p. 267-268). His membership in this group seems a bit hypocritical given his aggressive use of earmarking to benefit his district. He has also supported several recent bills that carry high price tags, including the $787 billion dollar economic stimulus package and the healthcare overhaul bill. He also voted to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program, allocate $2 billion dollars for the 'cash for clunkers' program, and to extend the Bush era income tax breaks for America's wealthiest taxpayers.
On social issues, Rep. Bishop aligns himself with conservatives in terms of family values, but with liberals concerning labor (Bicknell and Meyers, 2011, p. 267-268). Previously an opponent of efforts to repeal the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy in the military, he recently supported its repeal. On most other issues, Rep. Bishop is decidedly liberal. He receives strong support from pro-choice interest groups, the ACLU, Americans for the Arts Action Fund, and the League of Women Voters, but little to no support from conservative interest groups like the John Birch Society and American Conservative Union (Project Vote Smart, 2012a).
Even though Rep. Bishop frequently supported President George W. Bush during his term in office, this support waned during the last years he was in office (Bicknell and Meyers, 2011, p. 267-268). With a voting record that aligns with Democrats over 90% of the time in recent years, Rep. Bishop is a moderate Democrat with liberal leanings on some social issues.
Senator Saxby Chambliss (R) of Georgia.
There have been significant and important changes over the past several decades in Georgia's political landscape (Barone and McCutcheon, 2011, p. 430-434). The population grew by 18% between 2000 and 2010, due in large part to an influx of African-Americans from other parts of the country into Metropolitan Atlanta. With nine historically Black colleges and African-Americans serving in political offices at all levels, there is a sense that Atlanta at least, is forging new ground in America in terms of political color blindness.
Georgia was a Democratic stronghold until recently (Barone and McCutcheon, 2011, p. 432-434). A long line of liberal Southern Democrats, from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton, benefitted from the Democratic leanings of the state's voters. In 2000 though, a major shift occurred. Presidential candidate George W. Bush secured 55% of the vote, compared to Al Gore's 43%. Even Metropolitan Atlanta supported the Republican candidate. In the years since, Georgia could be counted on to support the election bid of most republican candidates and a conservative legislative agenda. For example, although there was a slight shift in the Democratic direction during the last Presidential election, with Barack Obama carrying Atlanta with 51% of the vote, John McCain still won Georgia by 52%. Georgia has therefore become a source of Republican support, despite being home to the third largest African-American population in the United States.
The emergence of a Republican dominance in Georgia politics is evident by the political ideology of its two U.S. senators, Clarence Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both Republicans. Both were elected into the U.S. Senate since 2000 (Barone and McCutcheon, 2011, p. 437-442). Their voting records are almost identical, so Senator Chambliss alone will be discussed in detail here.
Sen. Chambliss grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana (Barone and McCutcheon, 2011, p. 437-439). He was the son of an Episcopalian minister who moved around a lot, which forced Chambliss to develop the political skills necessary for meeting and making new friends (Bicknell and Meyers, 2011, p. 262). His father became an announcer for a minor league baseball team in North Carolina when Chambliss was five years old, which contributed to his desire to grow up a be a baseball star. Although he played second base for the University of Georgia, he graduated with a Bachelors degree in business administration in 1966 and then attended law school at the University of Tennessee.
After graduating law school in 1968, Chambliss began practicing law in Moultrie, Georgia on behalf of the local peanut and cotton farmers (Bicknell and Meyers, 2011, p. 261). His first attempt to enter public office was for a U.S.…[continue]
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