During November's special election campaign for the District 3 County Commission seat, we heard a few complaints because the county's Republican Party set up the three public forums for the five candidates in the race.
Some Democrats, especially, were irritated because the GOP sponsorship gave a partisan tone to the non-partisan forums.
The tables may have turned somewhat.
Columbia County's Democratic Party holds its monthly meeting Monday at 7 p.m. Lewis Blanchard, a Republican challenger to Republican Sheriff Clay Whittle, is scheduled to speak to the group.
"People who want to ask questions, this is a good forum to do so," says Terry Holley, chairman of the county's Democratic Party. "They don't have to be a Democrat - they're welcome to come ask questions."
The party is then following up with an invitation to Whittle to speak to the group in March. Ed Tarver, running as a Democrat against state Sen. Don Cheeks, R-Augusta, is to speak in April.
The county doesn't have many declared Democrats or Democratic voters. But if there is no significant local Democratic race on the July 20 primary ballot, many of those Democratic voters may pick up Republican ballots.
That crossover vote could spell the difference in a close race. Whittle and Blanchard know that, and will seek election on the GOP ticket by courting Democrats.
The first time Tom Mercer ran for office, he had a Democratic opponent. Mercer easily beat the affable Roger Fortier in 2000, and Fortier later moved out of the county to a home in south Augusta. I understand he's since moved again, but I haven't kept track.
Mercer on Thursday formally announced his intention to seek re-election. The big question hovering out there is whether he'll have opposition - either from another Democrat, or from a Republican in the primary.
Like any candidate, Mercer is vulnerable to challenge. Unfortunately for him, most of his vulnerability isn't personal; it's a matter of whether there will be an anti-incumbency feeling in the constituency once the election draws near.
In years past, various unelected groups - with varying, but usually negligible, degrees of success - have popped up to "represent taxpayers," usually after disagreeable action by politicians. For example, two such organizations sprang up and quickly died when the storm-water utility was created, one of them eerily dominated by men who'd all previously run for office and lost.
A new group has now emerged. CHANGE - the acronym is pain-fully convoluted, so I won't spell it out - was founded largely in response to the rezoning for a new Kroger in Evans.
The difference between CHANGE and its predecessors is that founder Jeri Whitworth isn't rabid and unreasonable, a hallmark of many such groups. And she not only has never run for office, she says she never intends to do so.
The group has gotten good response as it has begun surveying interest in the community.
Will CHANGE be effective? Will it last? Look at it this way: If it lasts only until this year's elections and has an effect on the two County Commission races there could be CHANGE in the wind. Incumbents, beware.
Picking a logo
Columbia County high school students this week will vote on the three choices for the county's new logo. Readers of The News-Times' Web site, www.newstimesonline.com, still have time to give their opinion in our online poll.
So far, the stylized sailboat logo is winning a majority of the unofficial votes logged on the site. Probably because there's no place for "none of the above."
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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