Barring a disaster, it is a safe bet that Ben Harbin will be re-elected Tuesday as Columbia County's representative for the 118th state House seat.
He certainly should be.
In fact, Harbin wouldn't even be opposed in this election were it not for a late-night crash last May into an Atlanta utility pole. Harbin was charged with DUI, and the case still is pending in court.
While such delays are common for defendants in Atlanta's backlogged court system - especially for those with legal representation - that hasn't stopped the cynical and often hypocritical sniping.
But even Harbin's harshest critics must admit: If not for that crash, Harbin's re-election wouldn't even be up for debate.
Simply put, Harbin's bright record of public service far outshines this single shadow.
Harbin first was elected as a member of the minority party in the House and soon established a reputation as a sharp, articulate conservative. Thus, when the Republican Party gained control, Harbin became the first-ever Republican to become chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
In that post, Harbin plays a vital role in guiding the budget process for Georgia, whose finances remain in outstanding condition despite the economic downturn.
Any such leadership position threatens to turn its occupant into more of a state official than a local representative. And it's true that the tremendous demand for Harbin's time in Atlanta has made him less visible locally.
It is a difficult balancing act. While Harbin has done a good job thus far in maintaining contact with local officials and voters, and has an office staff who provide exceptional constituent service, the perception of becoming an Atlanta lawmaker rather than an Evans representative is one he must inevitably battle.
We confidently expect Harbin's next term to include a renewed effort to maintain that balance, as well as bringing closure to the long-lingering crash issue.
More importantly, we strongly urge voters to grant Harbin that next term.
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