Originally shared with the Savannah Morning News, 10/21/20
In a recent opinion piece, Editorial Page Editor Adam Van Brimmer offers his thesis for the entrenched incumbency of Rep. Buddy Carter, name-checking prominent local Democrats from the local party chair to the mayor to Carter’s current and past Democratic opponents, before laying the blame for Carter’s invulnerability at the feet of the local Democratic party.
However, in a state where both chambers of the General Assembly, the governorship, and every statewide office are held by Republicans, you cannot credibly discuss entrenched incumbency without mentioning gerrymandering.
The boundaries of Carter’s district stretch from Savannah all the way to Lowndes County. The Republican-controlled General Assembly has drawn the district with surgical precision to be extremely difficult for any Democrat to compete for the seat, much less to win it.
The result for us locally is an array of undemocratic, negative consequences. Carter has no incentive to govern from the middle, responsive to a broader swath of his constituents, because his biggest threat is a primary challenge from the right. He fails to fulfill his constitutional role as a check on the excesses of the Trump administration.
Potential Democratic challengers decide, understandably, that the long odds of success just aren’t worth the personal and professional sacrifices required to run for the seat. And without meaningful competition for the seat, the whole district loses. Gerrymandering enables lawmakers to choose their voters when it should be the other way around.