The next couple of weeks, in political terms, will follow the advice of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest: to get there first with the most.
Forrest isnt the best role model: he also founded the Ku Klux Klan. But his idea of arriving on the field of battle early with overwhelming force is still a good plan.
The first skirmish for next years political battles, then, may come Saturday when Sheriff Clay Whittle speaks at the Columbia County Republican Partys monthly breakfast.
Whittle will talk about crime statistics and other factoids. But the underlying theme will necessarily be that hes up for re-election next year - and that unlike three years ago, Whittle may have an opponent.
The breakfast is just a feint; the real first-with-the-most comes four days later when a high-powered group of Whittle supporters will stand at the Evans Government Complex and endorse the sheriffs re-election.
The charge will be led by three former County Com-mission chairmen: Jim Whitehead, Pete Brodie and Pat Farr. Were going to have a lot of people standing out there with him, says Whitehead, whose own politically popularity is strong.
I wouldnt put my name in front of Clay Whittle if I did not think he had done a good job, Whitehead says of the man whose father grew up, like him, in the Harrisburg section of Augusta. Otis Hensley did a good job and put some good things in place, but Clay took it to the top.
Whitehead promises a host of heavy hitters will stand in for the 10 a.m. Oct. 1 announcement, which will take place on the front steps of the Justice Center if the weather cooperates, and in the Government Auditorium if it doesnt.
The early show of force is intended to help head off potential challenges, including one promised by Lewis Blanchard, a former reserve deputy and Columbia County school safety officer who now runs a travel and hospitality company.
Were not going to do it half-way, Whitehead says.
First with the most, in other words.
While Whittle and his supporters are ready to make a pre-emptive strike, U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood beat a not-so-hasty retreat last week when he and Rep. Gresham Barrett of South Carolina withdrew their bill that would have turned control of Clarks Hill Lake shoreline over to local governments.
The message from Nor-wood in his withdrawal says the bill responded to residents complaints; then he withdrew the bill when other residents complained about his proposed solution.
Congressman Norwood also announced today that he will continue to listen to the concerns of residents around the lakes. Sure he will: But hes also learned what happens when you get what you ask for.
Lakefront property owners have long complained that the Corps of Engineers is overbearing and unresponsive. But those same property owners now realize how much they like having a federally funded buffer protecting their expensive homes.
Given the choice between putting up with the Corps or sharing the land with other lake visitors, those residents will stick with the devil they know out of fear of the one this bill could unleash.
The episode reminds me of that tree-cutting fiasco a few years ago on Furys Ferry Road behind Forest Creek subdivision. The property owner clear-cut land that had been a buffer between the highway and some Forest Creek homes, and the homeowners were hopping mad.
In the end it was clear the land wasnt theirs, and it wasnt up to them to decide how that land was used.
Apparently, the lake owners have the same idea - but thanks to the protection of the federal government, they can have their lake and tell others to beat it, too.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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