Keli Gambrill, Larry Savage pair up for second legal challenge to Cobb County redistricting

Feb. 27—East Cobb resident Larry Savage has once again sued Cobb County over its effort to redistrict itself, joined this time by Republican Commissioner Keli Gambrill.

The new litigation comes about two months after a previous lawsuit by Savage, which was ultimately withdrawn with the promise of being refiled.

As with his last suit, Savage has asked the court to overturn the efforts by the Democratic majority on the Cobb Board of Commissioners to redistrict the county through an untested use of their home rule powers. The suit contends this use was illegal.

Gambrill, meanwhile, joins the suit as a resident and voter and not in her official capacity, though it notes the two are interrelated.

"(I)n both roles as an individual and a commissioner, she has an interest in having the BOC comprised of a group of individuals who have been elected in a fair and constitutional manner and who legally wield authority derived from a fair and constitutional election," the suit says.

The lawsuit — which as with the last, is in the hands of Superior Court Judge Ann Harris — could result in Democratic Commissioner Jerica Richardson's removal from office if the court sides with Savage and Gambrill. Richardson was drawn out of her district in the redistricting map passed by Republicans in the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp last year.

(Some observers — such as former Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd — have argued Richardson would be allowed to serve out her full four-year term regardless of which map is in effect. Richardson's term expires at the end of 2024.)

Citing opinions from the Georgia attorney general and secretary of state, as well as a lawyer for the General Assembly, the lawsuit refers to the home rule effort as unconstitutional, illegal, and invalid.

"As the county refuses to comply on its own," the suit says, it asks the court to force the county to "disregard and disavow" the home rule map and recognize the map signed by Gov. Kemp "as the sole binding districting plan for Cobb County."

Richardson, Gambrill, and county attorney Bill Rowling declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday. Savage and his attorney, Ray S. Smith, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit is one of two fronts on which Republicans are pushing back on the Democrats' home rule effort. State Sen. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, has introduced a pair of bills this session, one which would explicitly prohibit counties from redistricting themselves, and another to reimpose the Kemp map for Cobb County. Both bills are making their way through the General Assembly.