Georgia's statewide elections are still more than a year away, but Columbia County already is becoming a popular place for visits from politicians wanting to move up a notch or two.
Our next scheduled guest is gubernatorial candidate Austin Scott. He'll be here at 9 a.m. Saturday at Fatz Cafe for the Columbia County Republican Party breakfast.
Who is he? He's a state lawmaker. But don't worry; you probably won't need to remember. He's perhaps the least-well-known of the crowded field of Republicans running for governor.
Next month, Karen Handel, the current secretary of state and also a candidate for governor, is scheduled to speak to the Greater Columbia County Republican Women's meeting. It's the second time she's visited this group during the past few months.
John Oxendine, the state insurance commissioner and a Republican candidate for governor, has found official business to bring him here a couple of times. Nathan Deal, a south Georgia congressman also running for governor, is supposed to visit next month.
We've also had visits from Casey Cagle, who no longer is running for governor, and Eric Johnson, who wasn't running when he visited.
Not to be outdone, Columbia County's Democrats are bringing in both of their declared candidates for governor next week.
David Poythress and Thurbert Baker will be part of a "community meeting" starting at 6:30 p.m. May 29 at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center. After they take turns speaking to the audience, everyone will move over to the meeting rooms next to the center and eat barbecue.
There once was a time in Columbia County when no political campaign got started without a barbecue dinner. And it was official if C.D. Morris and the Bluegrass Boys were invited to play.
At least some folks remember. I'm a little surprised, though; they're getting the barbecue for this event from Sconyers. What the heck is wrong with Columbia County's barbecue joints?
Whatever the case, tickets to the event cost $20. Considering how rare it is for Columbia County to get this high on the radar for statewide Democratic candidates, that's probably a bargain.
Columbia County's Democrats failed to capitalize on the Obama momentum last year when they couldn't find a single local candidate to run for anything. This event might be a sign that they don't intend to be quite so inactive next year.
One guy who is anything but inactive is Forrest Griffin, the 1997 graduate of Evans High School who makes a living pounding the daylights out of other grown men.
Griffin, an Ultimate Fighting Championship series mixed martial arts brawler, is the former light-heavyweight title-holder. But this week he gets another title: Video game cover-boy.
The new video game went on sale Tuesday: "UFC 2009 Undisputed." There, on the cover, is the bloodied, impossible-to-miss mug of Griffin.
Griffin isn't the first Columbia County graduate to make it onto a video game cover, though. That distinction goes to Lakeside High alumni Reese Hoffa, one of the 2008 Olympians whose photo appeared on a game that coincided with the Beijing Olympics last summer.
Griffin does have his face on one more cover than Hoffa, though: coming June 2, Griffin will be releasing an autobiography entitled Got Fight?
The book will be available in stores, undoubtedly thanks to the UFC marketing juggernaut, and can be preordered at Amazon.com.
Here's a thought: Columbia County's commencement exercises are this Saturday. The book and the video game would probably make a really good graduation present. What better way to remind a grad of the importance of a good education?
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106.
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