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SC Rep. Govan wants Orangeburg to join redistricting suit

Jay Jordan, Weston Newton, Pat Henegan
Jeffrey Collins/AP
FILE - House redistricting committee chairman Jay Jordan, left, Rep. Weston Newton, center, and Rep. Pat Henegan, right, listen during a public hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. The proposed House map puts two incumbents together in five new House districts. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

A South Carolina representative being drawn into a district with another House member is trying to convince the city of Orangeburg to join a lawsuit over the new redistricting maps.

Democratic Rep. Jerry Govan said the city needs to fight the House redistricting plan signed into law last month because it is being unfairly split and will lose political power, The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg reported.

"It destroys a community of interest that has existed for nearly 50 years," Govan said of the plan that puts most of Orangeburg's city limits into a district currently represented by Democratic Rep. Justin Bamberg, who lives in neighboring Bamberg County.

Govan and Democratic Rep. Russell Ott of St. Matthews were drawn into the same district that is now adjacent to the city, while Democratic Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter's district is nearby.

Both the city of Orangeburg and the Orangeburg County Council publicly opposed the new state House maps before they were passed. Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler told Govan at last week's meeting that they back him and will discuss if they should join a lawsuit over the districts.

Two civil rights groups have already sued in federal court over the state House maps and are expected to likely sue when the U.S. House maps are finalized, probably this week. Filing for June's primaries using the new maps starts March 16.

The loss of political clout could hurt the city when state money is being spent, Councilwoman Liz Zimmerman Keitt said.

"As it stands now, we will not have the representation in the city of Orangeburg that we can count on someone to give us what we deserve." she said.

Govan, who is the second-longest serving member in the South Carolina House, has suggested the Republican-dominated chamber wanted to get rid of him and dilute the power of the city of 13,000 people that is about 75% African-American.

"They can talk about how important it was to keep Beaufort County together, then there is no reason they should have done Orangeburg the way they did us," Govan said.