Survivor: The Gold Dome Edition 

Rules of engagement
Starting Aug. 1, 56 state senators and 180 representatives will be stranded together for two special sessions on redistricting. Their access to logic and morality will be limited.

They will be cut off from the civilized world, engaged in the ultimate game of political survival, where career politicians do whatever it takes -- sleep with their enemies, stab friends in the back -- to make sure they don't get voted off the island.

The winners will walk away with their districts intact or at least with districts that include enough like-minded voters to win re-election. The losers will stand by helplessly as their political turf is carved up and used to strengthen someone else's power base.

Some rules have changed since the last round of redistricting 10 years ago: U.S. Supreme Court decisions will make it easier for white and black Democrats to stick together. It'll also be harder for Republicans and the new Bush Justice Department to do what Republicans and the previous Bush Justice Department did in the early '90s -- use the Voting Rights Act to herd blacks into a handful of districts to maximize the number of heavily white, GOP-leaning seats. And Democrats now may be allowed to draw multimember districts, which they could use to protect some of their incumbents from losing to Republicans.

Other rules are the same: State House Speaker Tom Murphy still chomps on his cigar; Democrats still control both chambers of the General Assembly; the Voting Rights Act pretty much bars lawmakers from reducing the number of majority-black seats, and metro Atlanta's suburbs will gain districts while South Georgia will lose districts on account of population shifts.

Most of all, the meanest, most conniving politicians stand to gain more than anyone by the end of the session.

Key players
John Kirincich, state Democratic Party executive director, is helping Barnes draw maps for the House, the Senate and Congress. He's offended even some Democrats by keeping the process closed -- and risks losing the votes he needs to get the maps passed.

House Speaker Tom Murphy, D-Bremen, is working with individual representatives to come up with a state House map. Right now, he, not Barnes, has a better chance of getting the 91 votes needed to pass a map. The governor has to work with Murphy, but Murphy doesn't have to work with the governor (though he probably will).

House Minority Leader Lynn Westmoreland, R-Sharpsburg, has submitted four maps for the state House. He claims he's working with Democrats who aren't being protected by Barnes. He had tried to lure black Democrats out of the fold but hasn't had much success.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, could be a big winner if redistricting goes well for Democrats nationwide. As chief deputy Democratic whip, Lewis would become a high-ranking officer if the Dems got a majority in Congress. Does that mean he'd give up some black constituents to help Democratic congressional candidates' chances at winning in adjacent districts?

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, should be protected from getting drawn out of his district simply because his area is too conservative to reshape into Democratic territory. Likewise, it would be hard to draw out U.S. Rep. Bob Barr: Any district that pushed the ultraconservative away from the metro area might just strengthen his hold on his seat. The irony is that the Republican Democrats like the most, U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Augusta, is far more vulnerable because more blacks could be packed into his district. But Barnes might not want to tick Norwood off: He'd be an attractive GOP candidate for governor in 2002 -- and might be inclined to challenge King Roy if he was dealt a bad district.

U.S. Sen. Max Cleland is a vulnerable Democrat. Two state lawmakers already are running against him, but Kingston or U.S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss might join in if they were drawn out of their districts. Will Cleland seek protection by asking the General Assembly to go easy on his potential opponents?

King Roy
The loudest complaints on the eve of the game come -- surprise! -- from Republicans. They say Gov. Roy Barnes and his pals are planning a sneak attack similar to the ambush Barnes led to change Georgia's flag in less than five working days of last winter's legislative session.

Republicans and even some Democrats are upset that Barnes' clique is fiddling with maps in secret and didn't share their plotting with the House and Senate reapportionment committees before this session started.

But Barnes will do whatever it takes to keep from being the governor who goes down in history for giving Republicans control of the General Assembly. And if there's one thing he taught us in the 2001 regular session, it's that secret meetings, backroom deals and speed-of-light lawmaking are standard procedure in Georgia government.

State House Camp
105 Democrats, 74 Republicans and one independent will take about two weeks to pass a map with 180 districts. The Senate will ratify the House map, and vice versa.

State Senate Camp
32 Democrats and 24 Republicans will draw their 56-district map while the House does its map.

Congressional Camp
Eleven U.S. House members will have to watch lowly state lawmakers decide their fates. The General Assembly will tackle congressional redistricting in a separate mid-August session right after legislative redistricting. Population growth will givethe state 13 districts this go-around.

Congressional wannabes
Georgia's population boom will give the state two new U.S. House seats, raising the number of congressional districts to 13. Republicans were the biggest winners after the 1990 Census -- mainly because the map locked most black voters into three districts, each of which elected black Democrats; all eight other districts eventually elected white Republicans. Democrats want payback. State legislators also were big winners in the early '90s. They used their influence to draw lines that got some promotions to the big House: seven of Georgia's 11 reps are former General Assembly members. The following politicos are expected to run for Congress -- if they can connive the Legislature to approve district maps to their liking.

State Rep. Doug Teper (D-DeKalb County) Teper is banking on a new district centered on north DeKalb and north Atlanta. But such a plan would drastically alter the lines for incumbents (and fellow Democrats) John Lewis and Cynthia McKinney.

Liane Levetan (D-DeKalb County) The former DeKalb County CEO could face Teper in a primary. She's also banking on map drawers to push McKinney southward, so that largely white north DeKalb would provide a base for a white Democrat.

David Worley (D-Jonesboro) Worley hopes to use his influence as state Democratic Party chairman to carve a seat around Hartsfield. He gained fame in 1990 by nearly beating then-Rep. Newt Gingrich in the old "airport district."

State Sen. Gregory Hecht (D-Morrow) Well-liked in both parties and already fund raising, Hecht is a potential Worley foe. But if McKinney's district were shifted south into Clayton, both he and Worley would be screwed.

Chuck Clay (R-Marietta) The former state GOP chairman wants to scoot U.S. Rep. Bob Barr to the western hinterlands and U.S. Rep. Johnny Isakson east, so he could squeeze into a new district based in Cobb.

State Rep. Ben Allen (D-Augusta) The third-term rep already has proposed a map with a new Democrat-leaning district running from Augusta to Milledgeville. His biggest hurdle could be powerful fellow black Democrat Augustan Charles Walker.

State Sen. Charles Walker (D-Augusta) The Senate majority leader could run in a district stretching from Augusta to Athens. Some insiders say he wants to run his son, Charles Walker Jr. Junior says he first contemplated Congress a year ago.

State Rep. Larry Walker (D-Perry) The House majority leader may take on Republican U.S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss in Middle Georgia. He'd have a chance if his buddies increased the number of blacks in Chambliss' district.

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