You could call 2009 "the year of the quitter" in Georgia politics.
It was a 12-month period marked not by the accomplishments of politicians serving in office, but dominated instead by the news of people who decided to leave office or drop out of an upcoming election campaign.
One of the first to give it up was Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who was assumed by most political observers to be the favorite in the 2010 governor's race to replace a term-limited Sonny Perdue.
In April, Cagle summoned reporters to a press conference and announced that medical problems with his back and neck had compelled him to abandon his campaign for governor.
There was some truth to Cagle's litany of medical problems, but his statement that he would run again for lieutenant governor, which requires a campaign of similar statewide scope as governor, left many people shaking their heads.
Another powerful politician was House Speaker Glenn Richardson - but Richardson called it quits as well.
He first tried to kill himself with an overdose of drugs in early November, a suicide attempt he blamed on depression stemming from a divorce from his wife. After Susan Richardson went on TV and said Richardson's problems also involved an affair with a female lobbyist, Richardson resigned as speaker and as a member of the Legislature.
Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter, who was in line to replace Richardson in the House's top job, decided he didn't want to be speaker after all and indicated that he, too, might resign.
The pressures of the upcoming race for governor forced other elected officials to quit.
Eric Johnson resigned from the Senate in late summer because he said he wanted to devote his full attention to running for the Republican nomination.
Likewise, just before Christmas, Secretary of State Karen Handel abruptly announced she was quitting so she could show she was "all in" for the primary election campaign to decide the Republican nominee for governor.
Handel's move was understandable. If she remained in office, she would be prohibited from raising campaign funds when the General Assembly is in session, starting on Jan. 11.
Handel is now free to keep soliciting contributions, but she has also given some of her opponents ammunition they can use in the primary campaign. It is not hard to imagine a debate involving the Republican candidates where Handel is asked: "If you're elected governor, do you intend to serve the entire four years of your term?"
No matter how she responds, her opponent will be able to say that she has already proved she will not honor the most basic commitment a politician makes when running for office.
There's an old saying that quitters never win and winners never quit. We'll find out in the 2010 election year if that's really true.
(Tom Crawford is the editor of Capitol Impact's Georgia Report, an Internet news service at www.gareport.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.