It won't exactly be the Thrilla in Manila. But in a year in which the only election is likely to be the underwhelming March 15 school sales-tax vote, the political bout coming up Tuesday morning at Lakeside High School could be the best we get this year.
Auroroa Ziobrowski, for her senior project, has set up a debate between Lee Muns, chairman of the Columbia County Republican Party, and Terry Holley, chairman of the county's Democratic Party.
Muns, though a little long-winded and prone to going off on tangents, can be a forceful debater. Holley, a former teacher, will likely come off as calmer and more mature.
This could be a good one. The only thing certain is that if a debate between the party chairmen is held again next year, it won't include the same two people.
After a long run leading Columbia County's back-benchers, Holley says he won't seek re-election in the Democrats' March county convention. He's also the 9th District chairman for the state party, and says that job keeps him traveling and makes it tough to hold down the local post, too.
A likely successor is vice-chairman Scott Nichols, who also makes a good presence for the county's minority party. An engineer by trade, Nichols is well-informed on the issue of impact fees on new development. In a higher profile position he may be able to make some headway in getting local officials from the other party to pay attention.
Just as the Democrats will soon pick a new leader, a growing contingent in the Republican Party also is angling for a new chairman.
One likely candidate is Chris Noah, who resigned from the party's executive committee after a blowup with Muns. Noah, along with County Commission Chairman Ron Cross and County Commissioner Tom Mercer, recently confronted Muns over the direction of the party leadership.
Muns has drawn particular heat for allowing Linda Schrenko to run the county GOP headquarters during the 2004 elections -- even though he knew she was facing federal indictment.
Led by Cross and Mercer, the county's elected officials are lining up in near unanimity against Muns and are seeking a successor to oust him at the party's upcoming convention.
Who knows; a debate next year could have not just one, but two new faces.
Speaking of debates: Just a few days after writing that there should be no conflict between science and religion over man's origin, I get a press release from something called the Institute for Humanist Studies letting me know Feb. 12 is "Darwin Day."
On Saturday, the group tells me, "the humanist community" (is that near Peoria?) will celebrate the birthday of Charles Darwin. These folks are "the non-religious" and "reject superstition and dogma," the announcement says.
The group is shocked -- shocked! -- that a 2004 Gallup poll found only a third of Americans believe Darwin's theory of evolution is scientifically credible, and that 45 percent believe God created man in His image, just like the Bible says.
The "institute" says that, among its activities, it funds the Secular Student Alliance, which in turn hands out Darwin Day idea packets at "more than 50 college campus affiliates." Those helpful packets offer such celebratory ideas as holding an Evolution Banquet serving "primordial soup," and having supporters parade around in ape costumes.
Undoubtedly this is supposed to not only pass for intelligent debate, but is meant to win over converts to the evolutionist faith.
Yeesh. And these people portray the religious faithful as kooks?
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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