Political Roundup: January 2007
Irony of ironies: Ed Holcombe was once a Georgia Power lobbyist who helped then-governor Roy Barnes in his behind-the-scenes campaign to change the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag. Sonny Perdue, of course, opposed that flag change and made a major issue of it when he upset Barnes in 2002. When Perdue recently had to find a new chief of staff, he picked retired Georgia Power lobbyist Ed Holcombe – bringing to full circle a tumultuous tale of Georgia politics.
Sometimes it works, sometimes not: Legislative Republicans redrew a few districts at both the legislative and congressional levels in an attempt to help GOP candidates in the general election, but they were only partly successful. The redistricting efforts worked for Rep. Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell), who had an easy victory in a more Republican-friendly precinct, and for newly elected state senator Bill Cowsert. The redrawing of two congressional districts held by Democratic incumbents did not work as planned – Rep. Jim Marshall of Macon defeated former GOP congressman Mac Collins and Rep. John Barrow of Savannah held off Republican Max Burns by 864 votes.
Diversity in action: When House Republicans and House Democrats elected their leadership for the upcoming legislative session, there were some marked demographic differences. The Democratic caucus officers include four men and three women; the racial breakdown is three African Americans and four whites. The Republican leadership team, on the other hand, is entirely Caucasian and includes but one female, Rep. Donna Sheldon (R-Dacula). “Look at their leadership – it looks like Georgia 1956,” House Minority Leader DuBose Porter joked.
Go west: Couldn’t they find any local talent? Nevada Democrats nominated two Georgia-born candidates for the two top races on Nevada’s ballot in the Nov. 7 elections. Jack Carter, the son of former president Jimmy Carter, was the Democratic challenger to Repub-lican Sen. John Ensign but lost to Ensign by a 55-41 percent margin. Dina Titus, the minority leader in the Nevada Senate, and a Tifton native, was narrowly defeated in the governor’s race by Republican congressman Jim Gibbons.
Franklin Delano Perdue: Gov. Sonny Perdue and Republican leaders are considering some changes in the state’s judicial system, including a proposal to add to the Supreme Court two more justices who would be appointed by the governor. If this comes to pass, it would not be the first time that court-packing has been a political issue in Georgia. A similar attempt to pack the U.S. Supreme Court was launched by President Franklin Roosevelt during the 1930s. Roosevelt’s proposal was opposed by, among other political figures, Georgia Gov. Eugene Talmadge, and ultimately failed.
Why not here?: Republicans did well in Georgia’s elections but that wasn’t the case in the rest of the country. Outside Georgia, Dem-ocrats gained control of both houses of Congress, won a majority of the governorships, and wrested control of several state legislatures from Republicans. What accounts for the GOP’s down year? Georgia party leaders say it’s because national Republicans weren’t conservative enough. “We stayed true to conservative, pro-business, pro-family values,” House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) said.
Seeing visions: State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine has been given the 2006 “Visionary Award” by HomeTown Health, an organization of 55 hospitals in rural Georgia. Oxendine was recognized for his efforts to make telemedicine technology more widely available to rural hospitals. “Commissioner Oxendine had the vision to look far into the future of rural healthcare needs in Georgia to see that telemedicine technology could improve healthcare outcomes of rural Georgians,” said Jimmy Lewis of HomeTown Health.
How many?: If you’re one of those who thinks Georgia already has too many counties with 159, you may be in for more disappointments in the General Assembly session. Legislators from the north end of Fulton County will move ahead with their attempts to split off and recreate Milton County, which would become the state’s 160th county. Such a move would require passage of a constitutional amendment.
Watch your speed: Gov. Sonny Perdue may want to observe the speed limits when he’s driving through Columbus. Former Columbus police chief Jim Wetherington is now mayor. Wetherington, who was state corrections commissioner during the Barnes administration, was one of the first department heads fired after Perdue became governor in January 2003.