Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Sonny Perdue's office announced that the special election to fill the 22nd District state Senate vacancy in Augusta would take place Sept. 20.
Contending that constituents in the district formerly held by the now-convicted felon Charles Walker deserve representation as soon as possible, Perdue's notice in essence says the election is too important to wait until Nov. 8.
The long-awaited announcement came just four days after Perdue spent several hours in Columbia County surrounded by local Republicans. Is it a coincidence? I don't think so.
Why, you may ask, would Republicans, from our county or next door, care when Perdue called for a non-partisan election? And wouldn't it be cheaper for Augusta to be able to hold the election to fill the 22nd District seat at the same time as Augusta's Nov. 8 elections for mayor and city council?
Well, this episode is a good example of the tangled way political calculations work. It goes like this:
Elections with a large turnout favor candidates who are supported by unmotivated voters. Elections with small turnouts favor those candidates' opponents. Unmotivated voters, so this belief goes, tend to be Democrats " minorities, lower income, less education, younger. Motivated voters generally tend to be the opposite. Low-turnout elections generally have a higher concentration of motivated voters.
Therefore, Republicans wanted Perdue to set the special election for Walker's seat on Sept. 20, when the unmotiveated voters are less likely to show up. Even though both of the two declared candidates are Democrats, Republicans believe Ed Tarver will be easier to work with than Ben Allen.
Actually, both are fine men. But while Tarver was challenging Charles Walker at the polls, Allen was defending Walker as his attorney and friend. To give Tarver the edge, Republicans wanted a low-turnout Sept. 20 election, rather than a higher-turnout Nov. 8 ballot. As late as last week, some of them were visibly upset over a rumor that Perdue was going to go for the later date.
Columbia County Republican Party Chairman Lee Muns says Perdue was noncommittal when asked about the date during his visit Saturday. But then, four days later, the governor's office announced the Sept. 20 election. So it's easy to believe that hanging around with the home team was enough to convince the governor to play along.
Here's a big welcome home to Dick Manion. A former Appling resident, Manion moved to Palm Bay, Fla., in 2002; he recently moved back to Grovetown. "I got tired of the hurricanes," he says.
Manion, one of the area's old-school political gurus, returns within weeks of Doug Duncan, another former behind-the-scenes operative, coming back with his family from Ohio.
I'm sure it's a coincidence, but next year is shaping up to be a pretty big year for politics. Looks like Manion and Duncan came back just in time.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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