Nevermind the hullaballoo over the expensive and anachronistic political party conventions. For all practical purposes, the election season is over in Columbia County.
Because the vast majority of the county’s residents consistently vote Republican, the outcome of elections in November are a given: The Republican candidates will win Columbia County by strong margins.
In fact, the anticipated margin of victory is such that Democrats haven’t even bothered to field local candidates in years. Until that changes, local partisan elections begin and end with the Republican primary.
All this means it will be two more years until there are any more local elections. In the calm before that potential storm, there are a couple of very strong lessons from the recent primary and runoff in Columbia County that would-be candidates should heed.
First, Columbia County is far more conservative than the rest of the Augusta area.
That would seem to be such a given that it evokes an eye-rolling “duh,” but just look at how the TSPLOST vote turned out: Much of the rest of the district approved it, while Columbia County voters resoundingly rejected it.
It will now add insult to local voters’ injury in January when, despite their firm disapproval, the tax starts coming out of their purchases. “I thought we turned that down,” some of them likely will say – and they’ll remember it in the next few years when both the county and the school board bring local sales taxes up for renewal.
The added tax from TSPLOST could seriously jeopardize those renewals if voters see it as a second chance to voice a negative response that was ignored the first time.
Second, just because a candidate is “from around here” doesn’t give him or her a leg up.
Lee Anderson found that out. Though he very narrowly won the 12th District Republican nomination to Congress, his own county preferred Rick Allen in the head-to-head choice in the runoff.
In fact, that TSPLOST vote likely hurt Anderson because he was one of the lawmakers to put the referendum on the ballot. Columbia County voters were upset that their wishes were ignored in the primary, and some of them undoubtedly took it out on Anderson in the runoff. Yet in other local races, familiar incumbents easily won re-election.
Many new faces are likely to emerge in local races two years from now, along with the expected recycling of retreads. Any of them who expect to win should take care to understand that voters here, while generally pleased with local government, nonetheless are demanding the same kind of belt-tightening their own families have endured in recent years.
Making the best use of resources is a winning strategy. Finding new schemes to get more tax revenue isn’t. The voters have spoken, and will again in two years.