Running for office is tough.
But this year, the process was even tougher for some metro Atlanta Democrats who were fighting for their political lives with the rest of the state watching.
Republicans had their eyes on several seats in the General Assembly they hoped would yield the party a supermajority – two-thirds of the seats in either the Senate or the House of Representatives.
With a supermajority, the party would have the votes necessary to approve constitutional measures without the support of Democratic lawmakers, said Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia.
Among seats in the spotlight was the one held by Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-DeKalb) representing House District 81.
“It is one of the seats that would determine if [Republicans] had a super majority in the House of Representatives,” said Holcomb, who won reelection Nov. 7. “The race was bigger in some ways than our district.”
Holcomb faced another challenge in running to represent a district that changed during the redistricting process. In 2011, members of the Georgia Legislature reapportioned the state’s legislative districts to reflect changes in population recorded in the 2010 U.S. Census.
The new maps combined the districts of several incumbent Democratic lawmakers. Holcomb found himself in a district with his close friend, Rep. Elena Parent, a Brookhaven Democrat.
Rather than compete against each other in the July primary election, the two DeKalb County representatives decided that Parent would step down and Holcomb would run for the redrawn 81st District seat, which includes Chamblee, Doraville and the new city of Brookhaven as well as a portion of Gwinnett County.
Others, like Sen. Doug Stoner, were not able to survive in their new districts.
The Smyrna senator had served four terms in the Senate when his Cobb County district was expanded to take in red portions of Fulton County, like Buckhead and Sandy Springs. Stoner lost his seat to Republican challenger Hunter Hill Nov. 7.
“I worked hard to overcome the obstacles. The final tally of 52.87 percent to 47.13 percent demonstrates that had this district not been gerrymandered, I may well have won. In fact, I carried the Cobb County portion of the district two to one,” Stoner said in a news release.
Hill, a Buckhead native who lives in Smyrna, said he wasn’t concerned about the implications his race could have for Senate Republicans.
“I ran because I wanted to serve my community, not because of where the lines were drawn,” Hill said. “We were focused on the district. It was jobs, the economy and education and lastly, transportation. Those were the issues that were on people’s minds.”
Hill thinks he likely will be able to get more done for his district as a member of the majority party.
“I think another thing that will be beneficial to the district will be having a representative that can get things done in the way of being persuasive and being a leader that can push things across the finish line,” Hill said. “That wasn’t accomplished in the last 8 to 10 years in the district and we need to do some things to push Georgia forward. There’s a seat at the table that’s been availed that wasn’t available previously.”
But Hill said he’s not interested in the Senate having a supermajority. “I think it would be one of these things that could get us in trouble, frankly, if we use it in a negative manner, which is why I’m focused on the district and not on any other number of Georgia senators’ opinions on what District 6 needs. That’s my job,” Hill said.
Bullock, an authority on Georgia politics, said it is still yet to be seen if either chamber will have a supermajority. House Republicans lack one seat, which they could gain if an independent representative chooses to caucus with the party. In the Senate, the supermajority will be determined by the results of one special election in January.
Bullock predicts if Republicans achieve a supermajority, they may try to pass constitutional amendments on several partisan issues.
“One of the first items I think they might tackle would be to create Milton County,” Bullock said. “Jan Jones, who’s the majority leader of House, is a strong supporter of it.”
Some north Fulton officials would like to break off the top portion of the county to create a county called Milton County that would include cities like Roswell, Johns Creek and Alpharetta.
But Bullock said passing a constitutional amendment would still be difficult, even with a supermajority.