About this time a year ago, a crowd of Columbia County Chamber of Commerce members sat in a room at the Georgia Capitol and heard comments from Michael Schaffer.
As one of Gov. Nathan Deal’s deputy chiefs of staff, Schaffer talked mostly about the reapportionment session that would come later in the year.
I wrote about his comments at the time, and serendipitously ran into that column the other day. Now that reapportionment is over, and with Columbia County facing elections this year for a legislative map that carves the county into giblets, his comments take on entirely new meaning.
Columbia County, he told the assembly last January, needs “to start thinking more about regionalism.” His comments were in the context of reapportionment rather than economic development, the more common use of the term “regionalism.” At the time, I interpreted those comments to mean because of Columbia County’s overwhelmingly Republican voter base, combined with the Republicans running the Legislature, that the county would gain more authority in the region.
Well, no. With the remap recently approved by the federal overseers at the U.S. Justice Department, it appears what Schaffer really meant is that Columbia County will no longer be its own entity in the Legislature. Now we’ll just be diluted into a “region.”
Is that good for us? I’m not sure anyone knows yet. What we do know, however, is that of the six legislative districts with all or a portion in Columbia County, half of them currently are held by a representative who lives in another county.
It’s relatively safe to say that in this version of “regionalism,” those representatives’ regard for Columbia County might very well be proportionate to the share of votes from our citizens that they need to get re-elected.
Speaking of getting elected, 2012 is an election year, and even though filing won’t take place for a couple of months yet, the season already has begun.
First out of the gate was Jason Hasty, who this past week announced his intention to run for Columbia County chief magistrate. He made the announcement after Bobby Christine said his anticipated call-up to active duty National Guard service this year precluded him from filing to keep the job he’s held for four years.
Then, on Wednesday, Associate Magistrate Jason Troiano announced he’ll also seek the post, and on Thursday Christopher Hudson said he’s running.
The last time the magistrate position was an open seat, after the retirement of David Huguenin in 2004, three candidates sought the post; I wouldn’t be surprised if even more attorneys jump in this time around.
In addition to this race, there’s likely to be a clash for the District 3 County Commission seat, with incumbent Charles Allen drawing a challenge this past week from Butch Holley, an Evans resident who serves as the Salvation Army’s marketing director.
Columbia County also has its role to play in the 12th Congressional District race, and Barry Fleming and Mike Popplewell thus far are facing off for one of the county’s state House seats.
No word yet on whether state Rep. Ben Harbin or state Sen. Bill Jackson will have challengers, or on whether any of the three lawmakers who live outside the county will get opposition from inside or outside Columbia County.
Gentlemen, start your engines.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/