Ga. Democrats pick new leaders after disappointing state House elections

    Georgia House Democrats elected Macon Rep. James Beverly Tuesday to be the party's new minority leader as it heads into a redistricting battle with Republicans next year. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

    Georgia Democrats named Rep. James Beverly of Macon to lead the minority party’s efforts to advance its policy agenda as lawmakers prepare for a contentious redistricting process next year.

    Beverly takes over as state House minority leader for Bob Trammell, a Luthersville attorney who lost his Nov. 3 re-election bid after Republicans spent $1 million to unseat him. On Tuesday, Beverly won the leadership position over Rep. William Boddie, an East Point attorney who had been second in command as Democratic Whip.

    Georgia Democrats, though, celebrated the apparent statewide election win for President-elect Joe Biden. And the nation’s eyes will be on Georgia between now and Jan. 5 after Democrats made it to the runoffs in two U.S. Senate races.

    But in the Georgia House, the 2020 election results proved a disappointment for state Democrats after failing to build off momentum of 2018 when they gained 11 seats in the lower chamber. This election, Democrats only gained two extra seats as county election officials had just a few remaining ballots to count. That’s far short of the 16 needed Democrats needed to flip control of the 180-member House.

    Beverly says he’s expecting it’ll be a tough fight to keep Republicans from gerrymandering districts using the 2020 census to keep their party in power next year with favorable maps. This year’s election shows the state is shifting more Democratic, which puts more pressure on Republicans with redistricting, especially in rural parts of the state where population growth is stagnant, Beverly said.

    It will be important for Georgia Democrats to stand together for the greater good of the party during reapportionment and not horse trade with Republicans to prioritize their own political future. 

    “My job is to make sure our caucus doesn’t cannibalize one another with treats that they can offer,” the 52-year-old optometrist said Tuesday. “There’s nothing you can give us, the state’s blue. And each community should be reflective of what it is today.”

    “Some of those southern counties are going to cannibalize one another because you don’t have enough people to make up equal representation across that border,” Beverly added.

    Trammell said Republicans are well aware Georgia Democrats are more competitive than in nearly two decades after a record amount of money was spent to beat him. The new Democratic caucus leadership team is primed to take advantage of the political transformation in Georgia, he said.

    “I’m not going under this well crying about Georgia’s future, because the future it bright and it’s bright blue,” Trammell said.

    On Monday, House Speaker David Ralston received resounding support from his GOP colleagues who re-nominated him to lead the chamber. 


    Stanley Dunlap
    Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.