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Convention may draw attention to Gwinnett

LAWRENCEVILLE - Mark Rountree is pondering hoping for the worst next weekend.

"It would be nice to have the 4,000 leaders of this state see (Interstate) 85 jam-packed with cars," Rountree said. "You don't want to pray for rain, but it would be helpful for them to see a worst-case scenario."

Despite its strong hold on Republican politics, Gwinnett is often neglected in terms of state policies, Rountree said. And he's hoping leaders such as Gov. Sonny Perdue experience a little of the suburban angst during next weekend's state GOP convention, which will be held at The Convention Center at Gwinnett Center.

"Gwinnett County is the Chipper Jones of the Georgia Republican team," Rountree said. "He's a great player. He won't be that way 10 years from now. People assume Chipper will be there forever."

Rountree, a Republican political consultant, said officials should take notice of Gwinnett's issues such as traffic because the county could soon slip from the GOP's grasp as demographics shift it toward the political left.

"It's becoming more frustrating, as we're watching weaker and weaker approaches coming out of the state," he said. "We're not seeing enough support coming from the state. It's starting to damage Gwinnett."

While many agree that the county will soon trend Democratic, GOP officials say Gwinnett is still a key stomping ground for politicians, since the county gave President Bush one of the highest vote margins in the country.

Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and John Cox will be in attendance at the Duluth venue, but others are more focused on an upcoming debate, Gwinnett GOP Chairman Gregory Howard said.

With a thriving Chamber of Commerce and local community improvement districts making headway on revitalization issues, Howard said he hopes Gwinnett can put its best foot forward.

But he did say the event could help highlight the county in the future. "Any time you can pull all the leadership to one area, it's great."

University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said he expects a lot more focus next week on the AT&T Classic golf tournament at nearby TPC at Sugarloaf than the convention.

He disagreed that the county is ignored politically.

"It probably was until recently," Bullock said, pointing to the times when Georgia was dominated by Democrats. "Because it was such a Republican county, it didn't have representatives well-positioned to look out for its interests. Gwinnett now has some very powerful representatives. I think those days are over."