Georgia 9th District
At the end of the 20th century, the hills and mountains of north Georgia suddenly became one of the boom areas of the South. It was a sharp turn in the region’s history. Since the early 19th century, when settlers drove out the Cherokee Indians, this was poor country, where small farmers scratched out a living on rocky land. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s march through Georgia during the Civil War devastated the area, and many of its young men who left to fight for the Confederacy never returned. After the war, not much changed for a long time. Most communities lived in isolation. Roads with hairpin curves led to remote hills where moonshine stills were more common than summer cabins. James Dickey’s 1970 novel Deliverance was a thinly disguised portrait of life along the Coosawattee River in Gilmer and Murray counties (although the movie was filmed on the Chattooga River in Rabun County). Eventually, textile mills began springing up along the railroads; poultry production became a big business around Gainesville; and in Dalton, the traditional craft of tufted bedspread handiwork was transformed into a carpet industry so large that at its height it produced 60% of the world’s tufted carpet. But these were low-wage industries populated by poor whites.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Since the 1980s, north Georgia has seen a rush of change. Interstate highways have brought it within easy range of Atlanta. Small manufacturing is thriving, with higher-skill workplaces replacing low-tech mills. Vacation and retirement communities have sprung up in the mountains and around the lakes. Agribusiness remains important, with huge poultry processors in Hall County around Gainesville. The carpet industry, more high-tech now than before, still plays a key economic role because the area is vulnerable to fluctuations in new construction. Once-rural counties are now part of the boom encircling Atlanta. The area around Lake Sidney Lanier, named for the 19th-century poet who wrote “The Song of the Chattahoochee,” is filled with vacation houses and second homes (although in 2007 a drought and water demands from Florida left the lake at its lowest level in 50 years). Tens of thousands of Latinos from Mexico and other countries came to the Dalton and Gainesville areas to snap up jobs before the recession of 2008. This area, 1,200 miles from the Mexican border, is now home to almost four times as many Hispanics as blacks, and the surge of illegal immigrants that rescued the carpet industry has strained local services.
The 9th Congressional District covers most of northwest Georgia. Its northern tier of counties borders North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama, and those counties are in the Chattanooga media market. The district extends south to the outer reaches of metro Atlanta to include most of Forsyth County, which grew by 61% between 2000 and 2007. Today this region has mostly forgotten its Democratic history, and it is solidly Republican in national and state elections. In the 2004 presidential election, the 9th gave George W. Bush won his biggest margin of victory in the state: He won 77% of the district’s support. In 2008, Republican John McCain beat Democrat Barack Obama, 75%-24%.