In uncertain times, people look for security.
That is the message in the outcome of Tuesday's election.
In every local race on Tuesday's ballot, voters chose the known vs. the unknown. Every incumbent won re-election, and except for one race in which a current-office holder challenged another incumbent on his turf, the victor in every race was a current or former elected official.
The highest-profile race was in the 10th Congressional District, of key interest to Columbia County. We sentimentally claim the seat in the name of the late Charlie Norwood.
After Norwood's death last year, a fellow Columbia County resident lost the seat to Athens area resident Paul Broun. Harlem's Barry Fleming took another shot at it, but fell woefully short in challenging the Republican incumbent.
In fact, Fleming even lost his home county. At least he won both precincts in his hometown.
While we recommended Fleming's election, we also predicted his defeat. His decision to spend most of his time attacking Broun, rather than touting his own experience to voters, did nothing to sell himself as a better alternative. It was easier to choose comfortable certainty over an ill-defined promise.
Other local races, fortunately, were much cleaner - even though a couple threatened to get ugly.
In the state House District 117 race, Lee Anderson, a former member of the county commission and school board, easily defeated Brett McGuire, who has now twice failed in bids for elected office.
We had also recommended McGuire's election, while acknowledging the well-connected Anderson would be difficult to beat. Anderson's comfortable rapport with citizens, particularly in rural areas, makes him a formidable candidate.
The not-so-veiled insinuations from McGuire's campaign regarding Anderson's intelligence probably didn't help him, either, especially with those who know Anderson best.
Voters also chose former county commissioner Charles Allen over newcomer Deanne Hall and former Harlem mayor Scott Dean over neophyte David Payne in two county commission races. And though he isn't an elected official already, Grovetown's well-known Barry Davis won a lopsided victory over the relatively unknown Theo Knight.
And in perhaps the biggest stamp of approval for incumbency, seven-term state Rep. Ben Harbin won re-election by a wide margin despite criticism regarding his still-unresolved, year-old DUI case in Atlanta.
In acknowledging Harbin's otherwise unblemished service, voters just weren't willing to throw out the horse to get rid of a horsefly. Thus, Harbin easily swatted aside Lee Benedict with a more than 2:1 margin.
For Benedict, his second lopsided defeat in a year's time should give him a signal that if his day in elective office is to come, it won't be anytime soon.
Some analysts continue to believe Columbia County's "clout" has been diminished, both in Congress and in the Legislature. While that claim of "clout" long has been overrated - especially if it is defined by the amount of "pork" brought home - there are still plenty of reasons to expect good things:
- Broun, who opened the first-ever congressional office in Columbia County, can be expected to continue to give attention to the county with the largest block of reliably Republican voters in the 10th District - especially after the county showed preference for him over a native son.
- Our state legislative delegation remains strong despite the loss of Fleming as House majority whip. Harbin, the dean of the delegation, is chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and veteran state Sen. Bill Jackson has strong influence with the governor.
-And in the County Commission, while the newly elected trio of Allen, Dean and unopposed newcomer Trey Allen are an instant majority, they are unlikely to upset the county's generally well-run applecart.
By and large, Columbia County voters chose status quo in a time of uncertainty, a sentiment echoed in the lack of challenge this year to any of the school board's incumbents.
"Change" might be the mantra on a national scale, but that tune isn't playing here.
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