Many local politicians were convinced state Rep. Barry Fleming would be the easy choice for Gov. Perdue in replacing Lyn Allgood as a judge on the Augusta Judicial Circuit.
After all, Fleming is a Republican, and Perdue needs to make sure his first superior court pick is a Republican. Fleming easily won his last election, and electability is important in an appointed post for which the new judge will have to face voters next November. Because Flemings district is heavily Republican, Perdue could move him to the bench without fear of losing a House seat to Democrats.
So it was a surprise last week when the Judicial Nominating Commission recommended a list of potential judges that includes two Columbia County Republicans, two Richmond County Democrats and one attorney who lives in Columbia County, professes to be a Republican but works as a non-partisan county attorney for Augusta.
And Fleming isnt on that short list.
Whats more, word has it that the nominating commission - led by former Republican attorney general and one-time gubernatorial candidate Mike Bowers - was told to disregard party labels. Thus, two Democrats made the short list from which the governor likely will make his first superior court appointment.
In a perfect world, a Rodney King cant-we-all-just-get-along world, appointments would always represent the best person for the job, without regard to party label. But that fantasyland world of fairies and candy-canes doesnt exist. Partisanship may be a dirty word to some, but party labels help define an overall governing philosophy.
The governors office in Georgia, for the first time ever, is held by a man from the Republican Party. It is his duty, on behalf of his party and the people who elected him, to appoint people who share that party philosophy.
Think it doesnt matter? Remember that judges influence not just the futures of the individuals who stand before them, but the interpretation of laws passed by the elected members of our government. There is a difference in Republican and Democrat philosophies in how those laws are applied, and the elected governor should reflect that philosophy in his appointments.
This doesnt mean the governor should ever appoint someone unqualified to hold the job. But as the nominating committees recommendations make clear, there are plenty of qualified Republicans available, even if many believe Democratic District Attorney Danny Craig is the best-qualified man on the short list.
Perdues nominating commission includes Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat with whom Perdue is currently battling in court over aspects of judicial philosophy. The commission sets the governor up for unneeded criticism when it fails to take party into consideration. It gives ammunition to the other party, which will suddenly pretend that all its appointments for the past 130 years have been from that fantasyland where only qualifications matter.
Wreck and recovery
Keep the family of P.K. Fitzgerald in your prayers. His mother, son and two daughters were injured this past weekend when an out-of-control car crossed the center line and hit the Jeep P.K.s son was driving.
His mother and older daughter were injured seriously, but thankfully are recuperating at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital.
P.K. is a good Columbia County man, a Harlem High graduate and a longtime contributor to The News-Times.
P.K.s son was driving along, obeying the law and minding his own business when the other vehicle swerved over and hit them without warning.
No one plans to be in an auto crash. Wear those seat belts - and say your prayers.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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