By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The proposed congressional map introduced in the Alabama Legislature on Thursday splits Lauderdale County in northwest Alabama among two districts, drawing concerns from local lawmakers.
All of the county is now in the 5th Congressional District, currently represented by outgoing Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville.
The new map splits the county, and the city of Florence, between Brooks’ district and District 4, represented by Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville.
“It’s not ideal,” said state Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence. He said local leaders want to be in veteran Congressman Aderholt’s district. Brooks is running for the U.S. Senate so District 5 will have a freshman representative in 2023.
Because of population growth in and around Huntsville, now the state’s largest city, District 5 had to shrink in geography.
Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Greenhill, said he was told either Lauderdale or Jackson County in west Alabama would have to be divided.
“I wish (Lauderdale County) wasn’t split, but it is what it is,” Pettus said.
Local leaders have asked that all of the Shoals be in one congressional district.
Even with the split, Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, said the Quad Cities — Florence, Tuscumbia, Muscle Shoals and Sheffield — would again be in the same district.
Melson said he plans to ask that the map be amended to put all of Lauderdale County in District 4. In the meantime, he said he’s talked to Aderholt, who pledged to work for all of the county even if part of it is outside his district.
“That was reassuring,” Melson said.
Though it is state lawmakers, and not Congress that approve the new maps, Aderholt said he would prefer to represent Florence as well.
“I already represent the other three cities in the Quad Cities, so it certainly seems natural to bring Florence into the 4th District,” Aderholt told Alabama Daily News. “Growing up, and living in Haleyville, Florence and the Shoals area has always been the place we go on the weekends to see a movie or to go to the mall. I also attended UNA. So, I am already very familiar with that entire area.
“As far as the county being split, I personally don’t see that being a problem. While I don’t know who will represent the 5th District going forward, and for that matter, I have to be reelected as well, but I expect to have a good working relationship with whoever that person is. And frankly, it could work to Lauderdale County’s advantage to have access to two members of Congress. At the end of the day, these are just some of the constraints the Legislature comes under when trying to draw seven evenly divided districts.”
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, also said he would have liked to see his home county in Aderholt’s district.
“I would have liked to have brought Rep. Aderholt and his seniority into Morgan County, but it made more sense to unite Shoals area that had been divided and keep Morgan tied to Huntsville and Madison County,” Orr said.
Alabama Daily News reporter Todd Stacy contributed to this report.