What had promised to be a big race for the state House seat left open with Bill Jacksons pending retirement may have ended before the first rhetorical shots were fired.
County Commission Chairman Barry Fleming made his long-anticipated announcement for the seat Thursday. A few hours earlier, Lee Anderson announced his intention to run.
Andersons news came in the form of a hand-delivered press release. Flemings announcement came at a packed gathering in Evans, with all of Columbia Countys top elected officials standing behind him - literally - and offering personal endorsements.
All that political horsepower sent a message, and Anderson got it. When Barry announced, he had all the county commissioners, both mayors, and several of the city councilmen standing there saying theyre with him, Anderson says. When youve got those odds...
Discretion is the better part of valor, so less than 24 hours after his announcement, Anderson decided instead to run for the Commission seat Fleming gives up in his race for the House.
I dont want to run just to run, Anderson says. I want to run to win. And for the betterment of the county, I didnt want to have two good men running for the same office.
Fleming isnt promising to support Anderson in the Commission race - especially when no one else has stepped forward yet - but he has told Anderson hell help arrange meetings with some of those elected officials who are endorsing Flemings candidacy.
Anderson and Fleming had intended to run two years ago for Jacksons seat, but were among several Republicans who backed off in deference to Jackson when the veteran lawmaker decided to serve his final term during reapportionment.
Even though he is alone in the race, Fleming isnt declaring victory yet. Im going to keep loading for bear, he says. Im going to keep running full steam ahead as if I had opposition.
Incidentally, there is a curious parallel between Andersons decision and Jacksons entry into politics. When Jackson first decided to run for office, it was for county ordinary - the post now known as probate judge. Katherine Morris was the incumbent, and later announced that she intended to run for re-election.
Jackson knew he couldnt beat the well-respected Morris, and backed off. Soon after, in 1968, he became one of the first elected members of Columbia Countys Board of Education - the very post Anderson held for eight years, almost 20 years later.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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