Becoming an Informed Voter.
Georgia’s 5th Congressional District was created in the year 1827 after it was redistricted from the single multi-member district, the At-large district. During the first congressional elections held in same year, the district voted for Charles Haynes, a Jacksonian. In 1829 however, it was redistricted to the multi-member district.
Ever since 1845, the 5th congressional district has been an independent district in Georgia, electing representatives to the House after every two years. Notably, the congressional seat has mostly been won by Democratic candidates.
The only exceptions were in the 1851, 1868, 1873, and 1967, 1969, and 1971 elections. During five of these elections, the Republican nominees emerged victorious. It was only in 1851 when Thomas Hackett, a third-candidate running on a Unionist flag won the elections. From 1987 to the moment, John Lewis, a Democrat has won all the elections by a significantly wide margin. To a large extent, Georgia’s Fifth Congressional district has voted along party lines during presidential election.
During the 2004 elections, the two presidential nominees, Democrat John Kerry and Republican George Bush received 78 percent and 28 percent respectively (Congressional Quarterly, 2005). In the 2008 elections, the district largely voted for the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama (79. 12 percent of the popular vote as compared to McCain who managed to scoop a mere 20. 1 percent of the popular vote) (Cost, 2008). Born in Troy, Alabama in 1940, John Lewis was to become one of the most renowned politicians in Georgia. It was during the Civil Rights Movements of the sixties that he increasingly came into the public arena.
He is infamous for having chaired the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a student civil movement that purported to challenge the widespread racially-based discrimination. Similarly, his role in the struggle against racial segregation is said to have been enormous – participating and leading peaceful demonstrations such as the Selma-to-Montgomery march of 1965, and coordinating the Mississippi Freedom Project (Hill, 2002). Despite the fact that he suffered immensely under the brutal hand of authority agencies, Lewis endured, and was not only determined to lead by words, but through actions as well.
It was in 1977 that Lewis first ran for elective office. This was after the congressional seat fell vacant, a situation occasioned by Andrew Young, the incumbent congressman’s appointment to the UN. Nevertheless, he was beaten by Wyche Fowler. In 1981, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council, a position he served till 1986 when he opted to vie for Congress. He managed to defeat Julian Bond (47% to 35%) in the Democratic primaries, a success largely attributed to his championing for city ethics and zoning. Thus, he became the second black American (after Young) to represent Georgia in Congress since the era of Reconstruction (Hill, 2002).
Since 1987 to the moment, Lewis has been reelected without little or no opposition at all, scooping more than 70% of the vote on many occasions. During his political career, he has interacted with many politicians irregardless of their racial background. He has also served in various Congressional committees including the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and Subcommittee on Oversight; as well as non-legislative committees such as the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, 21st Century Health Care Caucus, and the Caucus on Human Trafficking (Project Vote Smart).
One dichotomy that inevitably emerges whenever the difference between Democrats and Republicans is considered is that of liberalism versus conservatism. In essence, the Democrats are considered as liberals, while the Republicans are often described as conservatives. Although this stereotyping may not necessarily be correct, majority of Republicans tend to be strong advocates of the established traditions, while Democrats are more liberal in their approach, thus stronger advocates of change.
Numerous interest groups rate U. S. representatives and Senators based on their voting affiliations. These include National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), American for Democratic Action (ADA) and American Conservative Union (ACU) among others. In the year 2007, respective groups rated Representative John Lewis as follows: NARAL, 100%; ACLU, 100%; ADA, 85%; and CDF, 100%. Overall, seven interest groups gave him an average of 94%.
In essence, this high score is a strong indication that Lewis is a liberal politician. The fact that he has been given a rating of 100% by groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America implies that he is very supportive of progressive as opposed to conservative policies. Part 2: US State of Georgia The U. S. State of Georgia is among the thirteen original colonies that entered the Union and formed the Confederate in 1788. Except in 1864 when it had temporarily seceded from the Confederate, the state has participated in all presidential elections.
A closer observation of historical trends reveals that Georgia political history in regard to voting as largely inclined to supporting the two major political parties in the country, Republican and Democrat. Between 1868 and 1960 for instance, the state was persistently supportive of the Democrat party, voting Democratic presidential nominees in every election (Martis, 1989). However, the controversy surrounding the Civil Rights Act championed by the Democrats in the early sixties precipitated a change in voting coalitions beginning 1964.
For the first time in history, the largely conservative Georgian Democrats voted in a Republican presidential nominee particularly due to their discontentment with the Act. In the 1968 elections, the state voted for George Wallace, an Independent presidential candidate. However, this was the last elections that saw a third-party nominee receive electoral votes in Georgia. Since then, the state has remained largely Republican. The only times when the state supported and voted for a Democrat was in 1976 (Jimmy Carter) and 1992 (Bill Clinton) (Congressional Quarterly, 2005).
From a critical point of view, support for Democrats during the two presidential elections was largely rooted in the fact that both presidential nominees were from the southern states. During the 2008 presidential elections, McCain (Republican) received the majority of Georgia’s popular vote (2,048,759 or 52. 23 percent as compared to Obama who received 1,844,123 or 47. 02 percent of the popular vote). As Compared to the 2004 presidential elections, the Republican-Democrat winning margin during the 2008 elections was significantly low (5. 21% compared to 17 percent in 2004).
To a large extent, the narrowed margin was attributable to the high voter turnout of African American voters. Nevertheless, McCain scooped all the fifteen electoral votes. Out of the all the other presidential candidates, only Bob Barr running on a Libertarian ticket managed to get a significant portion of the popular vote (28,731 votes) (Cost, 2008). To a large extent, Georgia can be described a Republican stronghold as evident from presidential and congressional elections. Notably, the state has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton won the state in the 1992 elections.
Despite the fact that African American voters turned in large numbers during the 2008 presidential elections thus reducing the margin between the Republican and Democrat vote, the state managed to maintain the Republican legacy through McCain’s win. With its substantial fifteen electoral votes, Georgia emerged as the 2nd largest state (after Texas) to be won by the Republican presidential nominee. On the 15th of December 2008, all the fifteen electors voted for McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin. McCain was able to carry eight out of Georgia’s thirteen congressional districts (Cost, 2008).
Based on the 2008 as well as previous presidential elections, Georgia can be said to be currently leaning Republican. Senator Saxby Chambliss was born on the 10th of November, 1943 in Warrenton, North Carolina. After completing his high school education, he joined Louisiana Tech University where he pursued a degree in Business Administration, and later graduated with a Jurist doctorate from the University of Tennessee (Project Vote Smart). Chambliss entered into the political limelight in 1994 after he was elected to the House of Representatives on a Republican ticket.
He was reelected in 1996, 1998, and 2000. During his terms as a Representative for Macon-based eighth congressional district, he served on the U. S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, besides chairing the House Intelligence on Terrorism and Homeland Security (Project Vote Smart). In 2002, he vied for the Senate seat where he faced the incumbent, Max Cleland. Notably his focus was on two major issues: homeland security and national defense. Flagging a Republican ticket, he managed to win the election with a significant margin of 7%.
In the 2008 elections however, neither him nor Democrat Jim Martin, his close opponent, managed to receive the required 50%, a situation which precipitated a runoff. Nevertheless, Chambliss defeated Martin 57. 5 percent to 42. 5 percent (Congressional Quarterly). As a Senator, Chambliss has been appointed to various committees including the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Select Committee on Intelligence, and Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe among others.
He has also been a member in Caucus committees such as the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, Senate caucus on Military Deports, Arsenals and Ammunition Plants, and Rural Health Caucus (Project Vote Smart). Although Senator Chambliss has been actively involved in bi-partisan legislation, for instance the Emergency Stabilization Act (2008), a closer scrutiny of his voting record depicts him as largely conservative. This is largely reflected in interest group ratings. In 2003 for instance, for instance, LCV gave him a rating of 0% on environmental issues, while NAACP gave him rating of 27% on civil liberties and rights issues in 2007.
In 2007, he was rated as follows by other interest groups: NARAL, 0%; ACLU, 10%; ADA, 10%; and CDF, 40% (Project Vote Smart). Overall, he received an average rating of 15%. The fact that his average score is relatively low implies that Chambliss is a conservative Republican. According to the National Right to Life Committee and NARAL for instance, the Senator has maintained a pro-life voting record in as far as abortion issues are concerned (Project Vote Smart). References Congressional Quarterly. (2005). Guide to U. S. elections. New York: CQ Press, 2001. Cost, J. (2008). Georgia: McCain vs. Obama – polling averages. RealClearPolitics.
Retrieved July 23, 2009 from http://www. realclearpolitics. com/epolls/2008/president/ga/georgia_mccain_vs_obama-596. html. Hill, C. M. (2002). John Lewis: from freedom rider to Congressman. New York: Enslow Publishers, Inc. Martis, K. C. (1989). The historical atlas of political parties in the United States Congress. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. Project Vote Smart. Representative John R. Lewis (GA). Retrieved July 23, 2009 from http://www. votesmart. org/bio. php? can_id=26820 Project Vote Smart. Senator C. Saxby Chambliss (GA). Retrieved July 23, 2009 from http://www. votesmart. org/issue_rating_category. php? can_id=22029
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