Ron Cross waited until one month after the election to hold a victory party, so I suppose taking this long to look back at the local election isn't as late as it seems.
Cross, who defeated Brett McGuire and the local Axis of Evil, held a belated celebration Friday at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
Victory parties typically are held the night of the election. That can be awkward because not everyone has a victory to celebrate.
The losers' parties typically turn into somber grumble-fests with a few diehards hanging around until the last vote is counted, and most calling it an early night and quietly slipping away to less-depressing confines, such as a hospice ward or a Goth-rock concert.
The night of the primary, McGuire held a party at his campaign headquarters, with guests easing out the door as results trickled in to the famously grumpy McGuire.
Cross, however, held no party at all. His supporters hung out at the elections office while votes were counted, and left in little groups after the victory was cinched. Instead of a party atmosphere, there was a sense of relief.
Not to write too much into it, but it comes down to this: McGuire and his folks were confident they'd win. Cross and his supporters weren't. Cross didn't plan a victory party on election night not only because he was worried about being beaten, but because he felt beaten down by months of attacks on his character and his county.
Not many people in his camp were in a partying mood that night, so it's no surprise they waited a whole month to celebrate.
That lack of confidence was a significant turnaround from nine months earlier when Cross announced his intention to seek re-election.
In late October 2009, McGuire had filed an "intent" card with the Board of Elections office signaling his plan to run for the chairmanship. I reported McGuire's filing Nov. 1; a week later, Cross and County Commissioner Scott Dean, aware that previous challenger David Payne might run again, held a joint re-election announcement.
I thought that announcement was a mistake: Candidates typically run their own races, and avoid tying themselves to other candidates.
The mistake, though, seemed mostly on Dean's part. District 4 (where I grew up, by the way) has always been the poor, poor pitiful me part of the county, with an ingrained grudge against the faster-growing Martinez-Evans area.
Thus, it seemed Dean was making a mistake to tie his fortunes to Cross, who generally could be considered a liability in District 4. (In fact, McGuire won District 4 en route to losing the race.)
A funny thing happened on the way to that election, though: We learned that Dean and a married county employee had been exchanging "inappropriate" text messages. Suddenly, attack ads that had been tying Cross to Dean in an attempt to hurt Dean were subtly reversed to tie Dean to Cross.
What should have been an easy re-election for Dean instead turned into a struggle - and Dean didn't hold a public victory party the night of his win, either.
Yet even though Cross waited a month to hold a party, there still is an uneasy sense that this thing isn't over. Jim Bartley's "Taxpayors (sic) Council" is still lurking, and there's plenty of reason to believe three-time loser McGuire somehow thinks the fourth time running would be the charm.
Since the election, Bartley has run an additional anti-Cross ad (that also attacked me), reeking of sour grapes. And McGuire has written a letter to the board of Georgia Bank and Trust, taking shots intended to hurt bank officer and District 1 Commissioner Ron Thigpen, who was a vocal supporter of Cross.
Meanwhile, in perhaps the greatest post-election oddity: Just days after McGuire's camp cleared out of its headquarters space, someone pried open the back door, cut through a wall into an adjoining business, and then cut through another wall to break into the PeachMac store.
Nothing was stolen. But what a strange footnote to a bizarre campaign season.
It's almost as strange as having a victory party a month after the victory.
(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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