The average citizen, bless their blissful souls, is generally spared the pre-election-year political jockeying that goes on long before the public campaigns begin.
Those of us at Pundit Central aren't so fortunate.
For months, we've been bombarded with press releases from candidates making long-distance preparations for next year's races. Mostly, their campaigns at this stage consist of lining up supporters, looking for money and filling up newspaper e-mail boxes with piffle and puffery.
Most of the latter comes from the camps of the three candidates for governor: incumbent Republican Sonny Perdue, and his Democratic challengers Cathy Cox and Mark Taylor. Hardly a day goes by that one or more of these three hasn't spammed in-boxes all over the state.
(To make matters worse, their language is always too polite: Just once I'd like to see one of them refer to their opponent as a "poopyhead.")
Coming in a close second, as should be expected, is the campaign for lieutenant governor. With Taylor stepping aside to run for governor, the Republicans are eagerly seeking a seat that has less prestige than that proverbial bucket of warm spit that Roosevelt's vice president John Nance Garner used to describe his own post.
Still, perhaps in hopes of getting their fellow Republicans to give back some of the power that they stripped from Democrat Taylor when the GOP took over the state Senate, state Sen. Casey Cagle and lobbyist Ralph Reed are fighting it out for the dubious honor of filling Taylor's chair.
One of Reed's strongest local backers is Abilene Baptist Church Rev. Bill Harrell, who has known Reed for many years because of Reed's former position as president of the Christian Coalition.
Cagle, meanwhile, sent out a note the other day boasting about hundreds of elected officials around the state who have endorsed his candidacy. Locally, the list includes state Sen. Jim Whitehead, County Commission Chairman Ron Cross and Commissioner Tom Mercer.
Of course, in the real world of elections, lining up such lists of personal endorsements isn't much more valuable than that spit-filled bucket. Endorsements aren't votes, and voters aren't swayed much by such lists.
The usefulness of those endorsements is mostly in attracting money. By getting the word out that you're supported by an area's senator, for example, those wanting that senator to look favorably upon them would perhaps want to help that senator's friends, too. Like the old saying, "the friend of my friend is my friend."
And the enemy of my enemy is my friend, too - a message that can come from names that aren't on such lists.
So even though we're not even yet in the same year as the election, in their early campaigns for the lieutenant governor post, both Reed and Cagle have already visited Columbia County when they attended a Republican Party breakfast in October.
No word on when Cagle is scheduled to visit again, but Reed will probably return soon at the invitation of Harrell, who remains a powerful behind-the-scenes influence on local and state politics.
January is a likely time for the visit. That's when Harrell will be feted by his church as he reaches the 25-year mark in pastoring Abilene. Headlining several days of services and celebrations will be the Rev. Jerry Falwell, a personal friend of both Harrell and of Reed.
County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, Grovetown Mayor Dennis Trudeau and Harlem Mayor Scott Dean are expected to appear Monday on the Austin Rhodes Show, with a discussion on county consolidation refereed by former commissioner Frank Spears.
Dean may have his hands full; of the four, he is now the only one on the record against the consolidation proposal.
Adding fuel to the fire, at 7 p.m. Monday at New Hope Baptist Church in Harlem, a group called Citizens for a Better Working Relations in Columbia County is planning a town hall meeting to discuss fire protection for residents outside the city.
In the announcement, the group says, "We believe this contract withdrawal is Chairman Ron Cross's attempt to strongarm the city government of Harlem to support consolidation efforts."
There may be a few flying sparks.
A week later, on the 27th, I'll be pulling guest-host duty. The topic is sure to come up again - and we can talk about why this plan is likely going nowhere anytime soon.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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