Rep. Phil Gingrey (R)
Georgia 11th District
Northwest Georgia was long the home of the Cherokee Nation before the tribe was sent west in the 1830s on the Trail of Tears. It has been manufacturing country for the last century. Hundreds of textile mills and dozens of carpet mills once clustered near the supply of natural cotton and along the railroad lines heading southwest at the base of the southern Appalachian chain. The late 19th-century propagandists of the New South hailed factories as the vanguard of technological progress, and in fact the plants produced a higher standard of living than farms on this stubborn land. But the mills put scant premium on education or the cultivation of civic virtues and did little to bring in higher-skilled work. All-white hiring practices maintained racial segregation in mostly white north Georgia. Today, this area is developing a different kind of economy, as metro Atlanta spreads out along highways to the north and to the west. There are sprawling subdivisions in what once were mill towns. Floyd County is home to an auto parts manufacturing cluster, in addition to the carpet mills of Rome, where Latino immigrants have become a major part of the workforce.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 11th Congressional District of Georgia includes much of this part of the state, taking in small industrial towns, and rural cotton-, poultry-, and cattle-producing areas, plus a cluster of older suburbs around Atlanta. It stretches from Rome in the north to suburban Marietta, which is about 15 miles up Interstate 75 from Atlanta and where Lockheed Martin builds the F-22 Raptor jet fighter and the C-130 cargo plane. (In an attempt to maintain production of the F-22, Lockheed began in 2007 to make overseas sales, with the Pentagon’s approval.) West of Atlanta is Carrollton, once the home of an untenured West Georgia College professor who in his third try became a Republican congressman: Newt Gingrich, who went on to become speaker of the House. The 2005 redistricting made the 11th significantly more compact (it is more than 1,000 square miles smaller than the previous version) and more Republican, by moving boundaries to include the northern part of Cobb County, all of exurban Bartow County and all of fast-growing Paulding County, with a 57% increase in population between 2000 and 2007. The changes also shifted many African-American precincts of Cobb County to the 13th District and reduced the black share in the new 11th from 28% to 12% at that time. The result considerably altered the partisan composition, changing this from a somewhat competitive seat to one that seems out of reach for Democrats.
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: July 10, 1942, Augusta .
Education: GA Inst. of Tech., B.S. 1965, Med. Col. of GA, M.D. 1969.
Family: Married (Billie); 4 children.
Elected office: Marietta Schl. Bd., 1993-97; GA Senate, 1998-2002.
Professional Career: Practicing obstetrician, 1976-present.
The congressman from the 11th is Republican Phil Gingrey, an obstetrician first elected in 2002. Gingrey grew up in Augusta, graduated from Georgia Tech, and returned home to attend the Medical College of Georgia. After training in Georgia hospitals, he settled in Marietta, where he set up an obstetrics and gynecology practice. He also chaired the local school board. In 1998, he was elected to the state Senate, where he had a reputation as a staunch social conservative who could work with Democrats on other issues. Gingrey says the book that most influenced his political thinking is Barry Goldwater’s classic The Conscience of a Conservative. In the contest for the U.S. House seat, Gingrey faced tough competition in both the primary and general election. The issue differences were small among the three candidates in the Republican primary. Gingrey, who is Catholic, styled himself as the only native Georgian. Cecil Staton, an ordained Baptist minister, vowed to view all legislation from the perspective of the traditional family. Gingrey won 40% of the vote to 32% for Staton and 28% for Bob Herriott, a pilot for Delta Airlines.
|Phil Gingrey (R)||204,082||(68%)||($1,242,887)|
|Hugh Gammon (D)||95,220||(32%)|
|Phil Gingrey (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (71%), 2004 (57%), 2002 (52%)
The bitter September runoff revolved around their respective religions and allegations by Staton that Gingrey supported homosexual causes. Voters who knew Gingrey from his state Senate tenure didn’t buy it. He won 64%-36%, carrying every county. The Democrats, meanwhile, nominated Roger Kahn, a millionaire beer distributor. In the general election campaign, Kahn accused Gingrey of seeking special favors for cocaine-dealing felons and violent criminals who had assaulted police officers. He spent $2.8 million from his own pocket, and complained that national Democrats did not give him more help. Gingrey spent $600,000 of his own money, and portrayed Kahn as a wealthy liquor distributor posing as a modest farmer. With a boost from the Georgia Republican tide and the National Republican Congressional Committee, Gingrey won 52%-48%.
In the House, Gingrey has a very conservative voting record. So he quite unexpectedly found himself on the wrong side of some of the nation’s best known conservatives in 2009 when he told the newspaper Politico in offhand remarks: “It’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw rocks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party.” His sentiments may have resonated with other office-holders, but he wound up apologizing to the pundits the next day, praising Limbaugh as a “conservative giant,” and adding, “I regret those stupid comments.”
Insisting that there are “no throwaway lives,” Gingrey opposed embryonic-stem-cell research, which uses embryos from in vitro fertilization. After receiving assurances on protection for the textile industry, he voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement in 2005. Also that year, he sought but failed to get a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Instead, he got a seat on the Rules Committee, an influential panel that writes the rules for bringing bills to the floor. In February 2006, Gingrey lost a bid for the chairmanship of the Republican Policy Committee, which is part of the GOP leadership.
When Democrats took control of the House in 2007, he had to give up his seat on Rules, and he shifted his focus to the Armed Services Committee, where he has been an avid booster of Lockheed’s Marietta plant. After an August 2007 visit to Iraq, Gingrey called for more patience to “give victory a chance.” In 2009, he got a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, where he can work more effectively on health care issues, including shifting the industry toward electronic record-keeping and limiting damages in medical-malpractice lawsuits. He won House passage in July 2007 of a ban on federal funding for a program giving school-age children a vaccine for sexually transmitted diseases.
Democrats claimed they would seriously contest Gingrey in 2004 but he had an easier than expected re-election. He raised $2.3 million, much of it from the medical community. The campaign of his opponent, conservative Democrat Rick Crawford, failed to impress national Democrats. Gingrey won 57%-43%, and has not had a problem getting re-elected since.