In every election, there are winners and losers who go beyond the candidates on the ballot. After the gloating of the winners and the sobbing of the vanquished, then, we offer a look at the outcome of last weeks election.
Winner: Charlie Norwood. Columbia Countys own congressman easily won re-election to his fifth term, and will continue to represent what now is the 9th Congressional District as an independent-thinking conservative.
Beyond his own easy victory, however, is Norwoods newly acquired status as a kingmaker. Perturbing many members of his own party, Norwood signed on for Republican candidates in other races long before the primaries had decided who the standard-bearers would be.
Norwood backed Cleve Mobley in the 12th Congressional District, and quickly picked up the flag for Max Burns when Mobley dropped out. Norwood backed Sonny Perdue for governor from the beginning, and pushed Sue Burmeisters candidacy for state House in Augusta.
The result? A clean sweep, with all of Norwoods candidates winning - and doing so, in each case, in races they were expected to lose.
Loser: Charles Walker Sr. Though the two have never run against each other, Norwood and Walker have long been political enemies - and fought the 2002 campaign on several fronts. Walker personally drew the 12th Congress-ional District for his son, and drew the state House District 96 seat to favor David Bell, a former opponent of Norwood. And Walker was tightly tied to Gov. Roy Barnes.
All three of Walkers allies lost, and Walker himself was unseated by upstart Randy Hall - who also enjoyed Norwoods backing.
Winner: Barry Fleming. Bill Jackson leaves awfully big shoes to fill in the new 79th House District, redrawn last year to include only Columbia County voters. Fleming, with a family legacy of public service and two terms as Columbia County Commission chairman under his belt, is propelled into the seat with a convincing 70 percent mandate from the voters.
Coinciding with an election that boosted Republican strength in the statehouse, Flemings win earns him gentle ribbing from veteran Republicans who have labored as the states minority party. Ive already heard it from Sue Burmeist-er and Ben Harbin, Fleming laughs. "You are so lucky! You wont ever know how hard it was in the old days. "When you get called into the governors office it wont be to get cussed out.
Loser: Class warfare. The notion that residents south of Interstate 20 are stiffed by the county government is dead and buried. Flemings opponent and other Democratic candidates tried this tired old refrain during the campaign, but voters ultimately rejected it because it just isnt true.
Remember: It was Fleming, during sales tax negotiations, who fought for the cities of Harlem and Grovetown to get a share of funding higher than their relative portion of the countys overall population. The area of the county south of I-20 contains less than 20 percent of the countyspopulation, and an even smaller share of the countys tax base; therefore, why doesnt it make sense that 80 percent of the attention should go to the rest of the county?
Winner: Ben Harbin. Though unopposed, Harbin won big in Tuesdays election. Because the governors mansion is now occupied by a Republican, and Harbin is a senior Republican in the state House, Columbia County now has a direct line to the governors mansion. The county wasnt even in that position when Jake Pollard, a Democrat, served as Columbia Countys state senator more than a decade ago, because Pollard never served long enough to rise in seniority.
Loser: Democrats. This year promised to be a watershed event for the Columbia Countys long-suffering minority party. Bolstered by visits from U.S. Sen. Max Cleland and Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, the party seemed to have found new energy. Its members even opened a high-profile party headquarters in the heart of Martinez, and fielded strong candidates in two local races.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, the partys best effort wasnt enough to gain its hopefuls more than 30 percent of the vote against Fleming, or more than 26 percent against state Sen. Joey Brush.
And now, with a Republican in the governors mansion, a majority Republican congressional delegation and a state Legislature trending toward the GOP, Columbia Countys Democratic Party may be facing the harsh reality that 30 percent is as good as it gets.
Winner: Teachers. The defeat of Gov. Barnes comes from a host of factors, most involving the governors reputation as King Roy. Never was this title more earned than in Barnes education reforms that cut teachers out of the loop and left them feeling demoralized.
It didnt help educators that Linda Schrenko, the state school superintendent, also was pushed to the back burner by a Barnes-appointed state School Board and by a like-minded Legislature.
Tuesdays election results, then, are astounding. Schrenkos favored successor, teacher and state Rep. Kathy Cox, will be the next state school superintendent. To win the job, Cox beat Barbara Christmas, a Barnes ally. And, of course, Barnes himself was sent packing by Sonny Perdue, who now owes a debt of gratitude to teachers who repaid Barnes for what they perceived as heavy-handed disrespect. Perdue, while a legislator, voted against Barnes education reforms - and the teachers didnt forget.
Loser: Flag protesters. While their ubiquitous Boot Barnes signs and intense hatred of the governor helped assure Barnes defeat, those who want a return to Georgias old flag are likely to be disappointed by Republicans careful to build a coalition that increases their hold on state government.
These GOP winners will try mightily to avoid the flag issue altogether, rather than risk political polarization that energizes the Democratic Partys liberal base.
Winner: Scott Dean. Just 33 years old, Dean takes over as mayor of Harlem, bringing youthful enthusiasm to an aging, tired city. John Bentley won two years ago with similar promise, and did a fantastic job of modernizing the citys infrastructure.
But running a city isnt just about the nuts and bolts of sewers and roads; its also about the cultural life of the residents. Dean, a tireless booster of the citys community events, provides the energy to revitalize Harlems soul as well as its streets.
Loser: Non-voters. While it seemed Columbia Countys races offered little excitement, the outcomes of state and local races are incredibly significant. The unfortunate half of the countys voters who failed to exercise their civic duty not only dont have the right to complain - they also lack the ability to brag about taking part in a history-making event.
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