State Sen. Joey Brush, R-Appling, got a pat on the back last week from Sonny Perdue.
The occasion was the signing of Senate Bill 193, which restored fair dismissal rights to teachers.
Wrongly characterized as teacher tenure, fair dismissal is the appeals process for teachers whose contracts arent renewed.
Gov. Roy Barnes got rid of fair dismissal rights for new teachers with his education reforms in 2000. Even though it didnt affect teachers already employed at that time, the change was one thing that angered teachers and helped vault Perdue into the governors mansion.
Our teachers deserved an appeal outside their school district decisions not to renew their contracts, Gov. Per-due said during the signing ceremony. Running off good teachers is bad for student achievement and I will not let that ever happen again.
Perdue singled out Brush and a handful of other political figures for praise. As chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Brush had the job of pushing this bill and Perdues other education efforts - a tough job in this contentious first year of two-party politics.
Brush may need such feathers in his cap next year. Some personal issues are hovering around the periphery, driven by gossip and political rivalry. A couple of names have surfaced as opponents for next years Republican primary.
One is Sam Jones, who has gradually gotten more politically involved since returning to the Augusta area a couple of years ago. Jones first tested the electoral waters more than a decade ago, running as a Republican against Democratic congressman Doug Barnard.
Barnard won his final term without breaking a sweat. Jones later moved to Statesboro and ran a family counseling practice.
Since his return to Columbia County, Jones has been plugged into the GOP, even serving as a mediator last year between the partys factions. Many believed the much-derided love-fest was a waste of time, but at the party convention this year Republicans were almost unanimous in electing Lee Muns as the new chairman; the other faction got just four votes. So maybe Jones did bring unity.
Jones name is now floating around as a challenger to Brush. But another big name is casting a huge shadow on the race: Jim Whitehead.
Whitehead has done an admirable job of stepping away from politics since he left the County Commission last year. Hes still a carrier of the political bug, but is he infected enough to go head-to-head with Brush?
One person who wont challenge Brush is the last man who did: Mike Popplewell of Appling says he doesnt want another taste of his loss to Brush in 2000. Besides: A Senate campaign, especially in a sprawling district like the 23rd, is tough for even the most experienced candidate.
Instead, Popplewell is considering running for the state House that would open up if state Rep. Barry Flem-ing, R-Harlem, is appointed as a superior court judge.
That race would be a low-turnout, non-partisan special election. Popplewells GOP opponents could be Lee Anderson, a former school board member shut out of running last year in a mixup over districts; Charles Allen, the former county commissioner who has often talked about running; and Muns, who would have to overcome recent family problems and the perception that the party chairman should stay out of elections. Also likely to run is Terry Holley, a Democrat defeated last year by Fleming; a non-partisan race is his only shot at getting elected here.
If we thought next years meaningless vote over the Georgia flag was going to be contentious, just wait until we get a local free-for-all over an open House seat - triggered if Fleming, who now says hes applying for the judgeship, gets his own pat on the back from Perdue.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal@ newstimesonline.com.)
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