The hour was crawling toward midnight, as election results snaked across the bottom of four big-screen televisions in the corners of the Double Eagle Club.
Charlie Norwood, an Evans resident assured of another term as a Georgia congressman, was jubilant. This is another 1994! he yelled over the hubbub of his victory party, a catch-all celebration for area Republicans and political junkies.
Norwoods 94 reference reflected the buildup of excitement over a wave of GOP victories unseen since the Republican Revolution that he first rode to office. In Revolution 02, Max Burns was tracking ahead of Charles Walker Jr. in the congressional seat that includes a portion of Richmond County carved last year from Norwoods district.
But Burns win was just the first. Over and over, Norwood jogged to a small stage and picked up a microphone that never seemed to have a good connection. Though the sound crackled every few words, Norwoods enthusiasm came through clearly. After cheering Burns victory, Norwood later announced Saxby Chambliss win in the U.S. Senate race, and Tom Murphys astounding concession as Georgia House speaker.
Norwood then allowed state Sen. Joey Brush, who earlier had cruised to a re-election victory of his own, to announce Roy Barnes defeat at the hands of Republican Sonny Perdue.
A little history: Norwood and Brush backed Perdue before the Republican primary, over their fellow Columbia County resident, state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko. It was a calculated risk that could have left a serious local rift if Schrenko had won the primary. But it paid off, and Norwood and Brush now have the clout that comes with early support of a grateful winner.
The wins kept coming for Norwood, too. Not only does he not have to worry about sitting on a legislative delegation in Washington with Charles Walker Jr., but he knows back home Charles Walker Sr. also lost his bid for re-election. Remember: Norwood not long ago caught hell for a derogatory comment about the ethics of Walker Sr., pointedly saying that son-of-a-bitch has his fingers in everything.
Norwood certainly seems to have his own fingerprints all over local and state races. Sue Burmeisters victory over David Bell for the state House represented a big win for Norwood. Bell, remember, took on Norwood back in 1998 in a truly nasty race that Norwood has never forgotten. While Norwood worked to elect many other Republican candidates, Burmeisters race was personal - and Norwood was thrilled to cheer her victory.
Meanwhile, amidst the maelstrom of jubilation at the unforeseen turn of events, the Rev. Otis Smith stood alone, staring at updated election results projected on a big screen. It was soon apparent Smith would lose the race to succeed Ben Allen for one of Augustas state House seats.
Black Republicans are still something of a curiosity - just ask Alvin Starks, the chairman of Columbia Countys Republican Party. Smith was confidently hoping to be the first black Republican elected in Augusta, at least in modern times.
Instead, a somber Smith saw the rest of the room swirl in celebration around him, the revelers keeping a wide berth as if losing was communicable.
Dont mistake this as a message here about intra-party race relations. In-stead, it should serve as a warning to Republicans still giddy over their stunning, historic series of victories: Go ahead and celebrate, but never forget what its like to lose. Humility is more powerful than pride, and it doesnt leave you with a hangover.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal@ newstimesonline.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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