Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

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Georgia Women Leading Political Parties

by Randy Evans

J. Randolph Evans
Column No. 1044
Published 11/24/2010

Two women led their respective political parties in Georgia into the 2010 election cycle. They were the chairs of the Georgia Republican Party and the Democratic Party of Georgia. It was the first time this has happened in Georgia history. Next year, both political parties will hold conventions and elect party officials heading into the Presidential elections in 2012. Here is what convention delegates will have to consider.

Recently, a Georgia Republican party activist asked, “What is there left to do?” The answer is, “not much.” For the first time in Georgia history, Republicans carried every statewide race from Governor to Public Service Commissioner, all without a single runoff – even after an especially bitter and divisive primary and primary runoff. For a olitical party prone to self-destruction and division, the numbers are truly impressive.

Georgians cast more votes in 2010 for a Republican in a non-Presidential election than at any other time in Georgia history. Senator Johnny Isakson received 1,489,904 votes. In Georgia’s Eighth Congressional, the impossible happened when former State Representative Austin Scott soundly beat the seemingly invincible blue dog Democrat Congressman Jim Marshall. Scott carried 17 of the 21 counties in his district.

Georgia Senate Republicans held every one of their 34 Republican seats and picked up a Democratic seat – increasing their margin of control to 35-21, leaving them just 3 seats short of the two-thirds majority necessary for constitutional amendments. Georgians cast 570,332 more votes for Republican state senate candidates than Democrat ones.

In the Georgia House of Representatives, Republicans increased their numbers to a whopping 113 out of the 180 seats (including post-election party switchers), just 7 seats short of the two-thirds majority necessary for constitutional amendments. Georgians cast 436,851 more votes for Republican state house candidates than Democrat ones.

No matter how strong the national tide, political domination of this magnitude at the state level does not happen in a vacuum. With so many strong candidates, and so many hotly contested primaries, it is actually quite surprising that there were not more stumbles along the way. It is easy to forget just how challenging the Republican environment was following the GOP primary and primary runoff. But, as the Georgia GOP proved in 2010, discipline and organization tend to win out, even amids the most difficult of circumstances.

Here is where the numbers are really impressive. Chair Sue Everhart’s Georgia Republican Party coordinated 700,000 volunteer phone calls, distributed 100,000 yard signs and 300,000 door hangers, sent 103 mail pieces, made 34 television buys, trained 250 activist leaders, and visited 25 cities as part of the Real Jobs for Georgia Bus Tour. To make all of that happen, Sue Everhart and her finance team raised millions of dollars.

Add it all up and the result is one unbelievable election cycle. Chair Sue Everhart has not formally announced whether she will seek another term as Georgia GOP Chair. (Under the Georgia GOP term limits rule, she is eligible for one more term.) And, governors typically get to pick their Chair. But, based on Chair Everhart’s results, Republicans would have to assume that it is hers for the asking.

Things did not go so well for Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Jane Kidd. To appreciate just how badly things went, just look back at the preceding paragraphs, except through the lens of a Georgia Democrat. The only gleaming light from the 2010 election was the reelection of Second District Congressman Sanford Bishop over Republican challenger Mike Keown – especially after the networks called the race early for Mike Keown. This is little solace for a political party in total disarray.

Worse yet, the bench strength of the Democratic Party has been tapped out. Between Democrat Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor in 2006 and former Democrat Governor Roy Barnes in 2010, Georgia Democrats can no longer look back to find candidates to challenge statewide. Instead, they must start to look forward to find their new direction.

There are plenty of talented Georgia Democrats to lead. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is definitely one to watch as his career unfolds onto the national and international scene. And, Georgians have not heard the last of either former Attorney General Thurbert Baker or former Labor Commissioner Mike Thurmond. Their futures have yet to be fully written.

But it all begins with a party structure that can recruit and support a full slate of candidates from top to bottom and a leader who can manage success as well as build from failure. Democrats in Georgia would be well served to find their own Sue Everhart if they intend to return to competitive status anytime soon. And, Georgia Republicans should thank their lucky stars for the Chair that they do have.

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Today's Deep Thought

I think there is more wisdom in a single drop of rain than there is in all the books in all the libraries of the world. Wait, not rain. Super-concentrated brain juice.


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