Masters Week is here, spring break is calling, and all anyone talks about is politics.
Bleh. I suppose that's what happens when the Georgia General Assembly lurches to a close by blurping out cut-and-paste legislation that would be the envy of Dr. Frankenstein.
It's a function, too, of all the people quitting office last week, and the rumor of one quitting who wasn't.
If you aren't from around here, none of this will make sense- so it will be exactly like reading about politics from your own hometown, where none of it makes sense, either. I want you to feel right at home.
First with the rumor. Hot all around town was the story that state Rep. Barry Fleming, from Harlem, had decided not to run for the 10th District U.S. Congress seat.
Not true, said Fleming.
But while the rumor was sprinting around town and the truth was still lacing its sneakers, speculation about its meaning was, in the newly approved word of the Oxford Dictionary, ginormous.
First, it would have meant clearer sailing for the incumbent, Paul Broun. State Sen. Nancy Schaeffer, the other Republican running, couldn't beat Broun or Fleming with a head start and a pocket full of kryptonite.
It also would have left Lee Anderson out in the cold- or forced him, and Brett McGuire, the other candidate for Fleming's House seat- to run against an incumbent. Anderson had already quit his county commission post last week to run for the House seat.
That turn of events almost would have been funny. Back in 2002, when Bill Jackson retired from the state House, Anderson said he would seek the vacated seat. A few hours later, Fleming announced that he was running.
The next day, Anderson stepped aside rather than run against Fleming. If Fleming had changed his mind this time and stayed in his House seat, Anderson likely would not have been as willing to let him.
Meanwhile, Harlem Mayor Scott Dean returned in the wee hours Friday after visiting his soon-to-be-adopted children in Guatemala, and soon after resigned as mayor.
Why the rush to quit with qualifying still a couple of weeks away? Well, Friday was the last day he could resign and still give the Board of Elections enough time to get the mayoral race on the qualifying list so the election to could be held during the July primary.
If Dean had stayed in office until qualifying to run for Anderson's commission seat, it would have forced a special election in September- at a cost to the city of about $50,000.
In any event, the folks in commission District 4- which covers Grovetown, Harlem, Appling and Winfield - are probably just hoping that someone will take office and stay there.
The last person to finish a full, four-year term in District 4 was David Titus, who was defeated by Lee Brooks in 1996. Three years later, Brooks resigned for a job move and was replaced by Barry Fleming. Fleming then was re-elected in 2000, and resigned two years later to run for the House seat.
The post was then filled by Mark Devoti. A year later, he stepped down because of a job move, and Anderson won the special election. (Still following all this? Me, either.) Anderson then won re-election unopposed in 2004, but because of changes in the districts the term was temporarily shortened to two years.
Anderson was again unopposed in 2006, and now leaves in the middle of his first four-year term.
OK. I take it back. This isn't just like your politics back home, unless your county government is run by a temp agency.
Well, the Masters starts tomorrow, the azaleas are blooming and Martha Burk is still not a member of The Augusta National. So if politics is screwy, at least there are some things we can always count on.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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