The ideal situation for Tuesday's special election would be that no election would have been needed.
In that scenario, Charlie Norwood would still be alive, still serving as the U.S. House 10th District congressman. And without a vacancy in that post, Jim Whitehead would still be the 24th District state senator.
The sad reality is that Norwood passed away Feb. 13, leaving a vacancy in Congress and a void in the hearts of his family, friends and supporters. That created the need for a special election to fill the 10th District post, and Whitehead's decision to seek that seat created the 24th District vacancy.
A total of 14 candidates are seeking the two posts. Some of them are very good; most are mere noise in the political process. For Columbia County voters, the candidates we recommend not only are very good, but are very familiar.
To fill Norwood's unexpired term, we recommend Jim Whitehead. And to complete Whitehead's term, we recommend Bill Jackson.
10th District U.S. House
To casual observers of the 10th District U.S. House race, winnowing down 10 candidates might seem like a tough task.
Factoring out the carpetbaggers and kooks doesn't leave many to choose from. But even when measured against all of them, Jim Whitehead is head and shoulders above.
Whitehead is no stranger to Columbia County. We know him and respect him. Honest, forthright and down to earth, Whitehead served honorably as a Columbia County commissioner before beating an entrenched but flawed incumbent for the state Senate post. Even as a freshman, Whitehead quickly rose to authority, earning a reputation as an elder statesman in one of Georgia's more powerful county delegations.
It's no fluke. And it is no surprise that Whitehead was the presumptive front-runner for the congressional seat from the moment he announced his intention to pick up the torch of his fallen friend. Whitehead is as solidly conservative on national issues as Norwood; four former Norwood staffers immediately joined Whitehead's campaign in testament to that philosophical kinship.
It bears noting, too, that rarely has a campaign commercial carried as much weight as that recorded by Norwood's widow, Gloria. Her confident closing quote speaks volumes: "I'm Gloria Norwood, and I'm going to vote Tuesday for my friend, Jim Whitehead."
As Whitehead has frequently said, he can't be Charlie Norwood, but he can be Jim Whitehead. That's good enough for us, it's great for Columbia County and the 10th District, and we enthusiastically recommend his election.
24th District state Senate
Fewer candidates are seeking to fill Whitehead's shoes. Proportionately, more of them are capable of handling the job. But one man is uniquely suited to make a seamless transition on behalf of Columbia County and the 24th District state Senate post: Bill Jackson.
Jackson is the living embodiment of statesmanship, with the longest history of public service of anyone ever seeking office in Columbia County. His first race was a full 41 years ago, when he failed to win an election to the state Senate. He was then appointed to the school board, and helped to convert the board to elected positions. He won one of those posts, serving on the first elected school board and helping steer the county through integration.
Since then, he has served in the state Senate and House three different times, establishing a reputation as a fair, tough, thoughtful and forthright public servant. After his attempted retirement from public life in 2002, Jackson briefly returned to Atlanta on Gov. Sonny Perdue's behalf to act as a liaison between Democrats and Republicans in the then-divided state Legislature.
Jackson had not planned to return to elected office. But he recognized that Whitehead's departure to seek Norwood's vacant seat created a need for stability that his steady, trusted hand could provide.
It's worth noting, too, that Columbia County's delegation badly needs a grownup right now - especially one who has such a strong relationship with the governor. While Columbia County's incumbent lawmakers have risen to powerful positions in the state House, our community has suffered from their feud this past session with Gov. Perdue. Jackson will immediately step into a mediator's role and help regain our community's rightful influence at the Capitol and the Governor's Mansion.
Jackson's chief opponent, Brett McGuire, is an outstanding candidate, and against almost any other field would be the odds-on choice. But not against Jackson. McGuire's day will come, but it isn't now.
The man for this time is Columbia County's man of all trying times. We urgently recommend the election of Bill Jackson.
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