Georgia 7th District
In the last two decades, greater Atlanta has grown out in every direction: south past the airport, west over the Chattahoochee River, north past the Perimeter Center, and east and northeast past Stone Mountain. The outer suburbs north of Atlanta have grown fastest of all. Gwinnett County features more-mature neighborhoods of affluent professionals and entrepreneurs. The closer-in portions of Gwinnett, near Interstate 85, with their older shopping districts, have been attracting Georgia’s largest concentration of Hispanics and also middle-class blacks. The county’s rapidly growing school system boasts that its students speak more than 100 languages. Farther out in Lawrenceville, Duluth, and Buford, downtown Atlanta seems very far away, both physically—it is 30 to 50 miles, and more than an hour of clogged rush-hour driving, to Peachtree Street—and in state of mind. For many, Atlanta is something that whizzes by on the way to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The growth here and its diversity are hard to overstate. Gwinnett County cast 21,000 votes in 1972 and 291,000 in 2008. By contrast, Fulton County, which includes central Atlanta, cast 405,000, and DeKalb County cast 322,000. Gwinnett’s population grew 32% from 2000 to 2007, to 776,000. Like other metro Atlanta counties, the non-Hispanic white population has been dropping in the schools, while the overall numbers soar. There is some international flavor here: Mexicans in Norcross, Koreans in Duluth, and Bosnians in Lawrenceville. Beyond Gwinnett, recent increases have been equally robust, with growth spurts of 37% to 55% in Barrow, Walton, and Newton counties. These were once rural, low-income, and heavily Democratic areas. Now they are full of strivers and achievers, with many religious conservatives and many economic conservatives, and relatively few liberals and Democrats. Concern over excessive growth led Wal-Mart in 2008 to abandon plans for a supercenter in Duluth.
The 7th Congressional District of Georgia owes its existence to the rapid growth here since the early 1990s. Redistricting in 2005 gave it a more compact shape and recentered the district in Gwinnett, which has 78% of the population, compared to 58% previously. In addition to all of Barrow and Walton counties, the 7th includes thin slices of Forsyth and Newton counties. The changes increased the African-American population from 7% to 12% and had the effect of reducing the 2004 vote here for President Bush from 76% to 70%. In 2008, Republican John McCain beat Democrat Barack Obama in the district 60%-39%.