Is Adams County best suited with the Delta?

Published 12:07 am Saturday, December 17, 2011

NATCHEZ — Local leaders are hopeful that a panel of judges working to redistrict Mississippi’s four congressional districts will let Adams County stay put.

One of the proposals on the table, though, would move Adams and Wilkinson counties from the 2nd Congressional District to the 3rd.

The task of redistricting in Mississippi was turned over the panel of three judges earlier this month when the state legislature failed to agree upon a new plan. The panel has not announced a final plan.

The 2nd District, centered in the Delta and Jackson and represented by Democrat Bennie Thompson, had 66,263 people in the 2010 census — 9.9 percent below ideal. Central Mississippi’s 3rd District, represented by Republican Gregg Harper is slightly above the ideal.

District 94 Rep. Robert L. Johnson of Natchez is a member of the redistricting committee and said that he feels Adams County should remain in the 3rd District because of the aspirations and goals it has toward building local industry.

“Other than the fact that we’re on the river, I don’t think we have much in common with the 2nd district,” Johnson said. “Historically, we’ve always been more of a central Mississippi district, so it just makes more sense.”

But the Republican Party has said that putting all the counties along the Mississippi River together is logical.

Republicans suggested the 2nd District should begin with a slightly large number of residents, since many counties it contains have been consistently declining in population.

While Johnson’s stance is firm on keeping Adams County in the 3rd District, he doesn’t believe there would be any bad blood if the county moved to the 2nd District.

“If we end up in the 2nd District, we’ll be welcome with open arms,” Johnson said. “Thompson has always been receptive and has always been there to help when I’ve called him, so we’ll still be in good shape.”

Sen. Kelvin Butler, D-Magnolia, who represents a portion of Adams County, said he too thinks Adams County should be separate from the Delta, but that he is open to change if it comes.

“I think it’s all about relationships, and I’ve worked hard to build up relationships with all of those guys,” Butler said.

Thompson has said he doesn’t want to add Adams and Wilkinson to his district, which is already about 200 miles long.

Each of the state’s four congressional districts should have 741,824 people.

Butler also said that he doesn’t feel there would be any animosity if Thompson picked up Adams County in the 2nd District.

“It’s important, if you’re in politics to have good relationships with our congressmen because when issues come up, we have to be able to call them up and listen to you and help you however they can,” Butler said. “I know they would do whatever they can to help.”

Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton said he has built up more rapport with Harper, but was pleased with the receptive response he received from Thompson and his staff in the past.

“I do know them both and I think they would both offer equal help if we were to move into his district,” Middleton said. “Whoever represents Adams County, we would expect them to represent us well, that’s just part of the job.”

Population shifts reflected in census numbers from 2010 require redistricting.

Attorney General Jim Hood dropped the only remaining objections this week, allowing the panel to proceed.

Harper said despite the questions and concerns regarding the outcome of his district, he remains hopeful of a compromise.

“I remain confident that the court will forge a map that will be equitable to all parties involved and allow the March 13, 2012, primary to proceed as planned,” Harper said in an e-mail.