In January, columnist Tom Crawford declared 2009 the "Year of the Quitter" in Georgia politics.
He was referring to resignations by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who pulled out of the governor's race; House Speaker Glenn Richardson, who quit his leadership post and his state House seat; State Sen. Eric Johnson, who quit to run for governor; and Secretary of State Karen Handel, who also quit to run for governor.
Four months later, the quitting apparently hasn't quit. U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal quit his congressional seat. He said it was to run for governor, but then he stayed in Congress long enough to fight the health care reform bill (he lost), but still managed to get out before he could be hit with ethics sanctions for using the influence of his office to hang onto a lucrative no-bid contract with the state.
Then, on Monday, state school Superintendent Kathy Cox resigned effective June 30 "to become the founding CEO of the U.S. Education Delivery Institute."
The announcement from her office says EDI is "a non-profit dedicated to building the capacity in state public education systems to implement school reform effectively." Whatever the heck that means.
It could be worse, I suppose. The previous state school superintendent left to run for governor, and instead wound up in federal prison.
Georgia's public education system is in terrible shape right now because of massive budget cuts, so Cox could reasonably be seen as jumping off a sinking ship.
As soon as Cox is gone, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue gets to appoint her successor to serve until a new superintendent is elected and takes office Jan. 1. While it might not be possible to find someone any weaker than Cox was, he's sure to try.
Republicans John Barge and Richard Woods are running for the superintendent's post, as are Democrats Beth Farokhi, Joe Martin and Brian Westlake.
When Handel resigned, Perdue appointed one of the candidates planning to run for secretary of state, Brian Kemp, rather than a caretaker not seeking election. That obviously gave Kemp a huge boost in his quest for the office where he faces six opponents.
If he follows that same pattern, Perdue would pick either Barge or Woods to serve out Cox's term. The timing is important, though: The office is vacant July 1, which is when Perdue's appointee would start. But Barge and Woods face off in a Republican primary July 20.
That means it's possible Perdue could appoint one of them and the other could win the election three weeks later - which might make the rest of the year a little awkward.
Barge, by the way, is a central-office administrator in Bartow County schools, while Woods is the K-5 curriculum director of Irwin County Elementary School.
Whoever eventually takes over the post, after the first of the year their problems will be solved anyway. Otis Putnam, the "regular guy running for governor," as he proclaims himself frequently, announced his platform this past week and has the fix for public education's problems.
"I want to put prayer back in the schools in Georgia," says Putnam, whose regular job is at a Walmart in Brunswick. "Education will be repaired first by putting prayer back in schools."
To all the very-religious folks happily nodding their heads, Putnam clearly advocates a return to the days when tax-funded public school teachers told students to bow their heads as she led them in Christian prayer.
More than 40 years have passed since that practice was determined to be a violation of the Constitution, and much in the world has changed. Those nostalgic heads would nod far less in 2010 with a Muslim or Buddhist teacher leading that prayer.
All this will be moot a year from Friday anyway. According to a postcard I received this week from Harold Camping, a Christian broadcaster, Jesus is returning May 21, 2011, followed by "five months of shame and torment for the unsaved," ending with annihilation by fire of all creation on Oct. 21, 2011.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
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