Congratulations to Matt Aitken.
Though it will be a while before we really know the full significance of Aitken's election as Augusta's newest county commissioner, some signs of the change undoubtedly will occur in the next few days.
That's because minority commissioners likely will want to cut any deals they can before Aitken takes office and ends the body's 5-5 racial split and the leverage it has.
I'm sure Aitken has had more than his fill of unsolicited advice. Even so, here's just a little more for him:
Ignore the losers.
Aitken faced off against a racist coalition of grievance-mongers and beat them. Some in their ranks will now be among the loudest demanding that he respect the racial divisions in the city and kowtow to them.
Aitken should politely tell them to shove it. They should learn that you can't hit an opponent with such vicious attacks and escape the consequences.
Aitken should do what he knows is right. And he should make sure every single one of those racists who lined up against him find out what it's like to stand out in the cold.
Calling it quits
Speaking of being out in the cold, the question at the beginning of the week was how much longer Glenn Richardson would hang on as speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives.
The question now is how many other people will get collateral damage from his implosion.
Despite the fact that former Columbia County commissioner and ex-state Rep. Barry Fleming serves as the attorney for the speaker's office, Richardson's recent woes haven't gotten much attention around here.
But oh, have they been rakin' him over the coals in Atlanta, leading to his resignation Thursday.
The fat hit the fire Nov. 8 when the cops were called to Richardson's Hiram, Ga., home after he attempted suicide. He said he had been suffering from depression and was despondent over his divorce a year ago.
Publicly, we didn't know much about the circumstances of that divorce except that it was lightning-fast, granted by a judge who was a former colleague of Richardson who then immediately sealed all the records of the split.
It long was rumored that the divorce was the result of Richardson having an affair with an Atlanta Gas Light lobbyist while the utility was getting Richardson's help laying a controversial pipeline.
Richardson's suicide attempt caused his ex-wife to break her silence. Susan Richardson told an Atlanta TV reporter that her ex-husband wasn't depressed - he was just angry that he couldn't control her any more.
What's more, she said, there was no "alleged" inappropriate relationship with the lobbyist. "It was a full out affair and I knew about it," Ms. Richardson asserts.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Aaron Gould Sheinin reported that while Republicans had initially and sympathetically circled the wagons around Richardson following his suicide attempt, Ms. Richardson's comments changed a few minds.
Soon after, the Republican-run Political Vine blog posted this very-direct comment: "If there is anyone in the Republican Caucus (or anywhere else) who thinks Glenn Richardson should stay on as speaker, you should stand up, publicly identify yourself, and then be shot dead. (Why? Because you're a moron.)"
The piling-on began mid-week, as Republican lawmakers - including secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel - demanded Richardson resign.
Shortly after a conference call among the Republican leadership Thursday, Richardson announced his resignation from the speaker's chair and from his House seat. He'll be replaced by Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter.
And guess what: When Richardson first was elected as speaker in 2006, our own state Rep. Ben Harbin, chairman of the appropriations committee, was alone in the Columbia County delegation in backing Richardson's opponent - Mark Burkhalter.
What goes around...
Harbin told me Friday that he welcomes Richardson's departure and sees Burkhalter's ascension to the speaker's chair "as a good move. Burkhalter has been a friend for a long time. He's a calm and thoughtful legislator. I think he'll do well and bring some stabilty to the House."
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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