The 2004 political season is in the books and the voters have spoken
and they shouted. For the most part locally and at the state level, it was throw the bums out. At the national level, it was the opposite, as incumbency led the day.
Here are my picks for the winners and losers of the body politic in Southeast Georgia.
Georgia Republicans: Showed up to the polls in 2002, changed the Governors mansion and the Senate, and completed the deal in the House of Representatives in 2004. Now its the GOPs turn to govern, the first time in over a century.
Governor Sonny Perdue: Spends a great deal of money and political capital to maintain control of Senate and take over the House.
State Senator Eric Johnson (R-Savannah): As the leading Republican Senator, Johnson skillfully fights a redistricting battle and wins four additional seats to solidify the GOPs hold on power. Look for the agenda of tort reform, ethics reform, and congressional redistricting to lead the first few weeks of the 2005 General Assembly session.
State Senator Jack Hill (R-Reidsville): Switches to the GOP after good friend Sonny Perdue wins as Governor and then lauded as a successful budget chairman. Voters reward him with big wins in the Primary and General elections.
State Representative Ron Stephens (R-Savannah): Moves into a new district, goes unchallenged, Republicans win the House. Stephens will likely be rewarded for his loyalty and leadership with a key chairmanship.
State Representative-elect Buddy Carter (R-Pooler): Defeats long-term Representative Ann Purcell, finds himself in the majority, and now will bring his skillful legislative ability to the capital.
Chatham County Business Community: Spent over $100,000 to de-fang the Gang of Five. They find success by defeating Jeff Rayno and John McMasters and electing Pat Farrell and Pete Liakakis.
Chatham County Trial Lawyers: Fight tort reform movement by beating back challenge to their poster boy for legal reform, Rep. Tom Bordeaux, and re-electing Senator Regina Thomas. Cap off big year by defeating Congressman Max Burns with Athens trial lawyer John Barrow. Will their luck hold next year in a GOP-controlled state government?
Chatham County Democrats: Regain control of the county commission and defeat GOP Congressman Max Burns by delivering an extra 10,000 votes in the county for John Barrow. In a state where knocking off Democrats was considered sport on Nov. 2, they proved that Savannah is the last great bastion for Democrats. Nobody ever denied that Savannah couldnt find a trend with both hands.
Georgia Democrats outside of Chatham County: Lose the last lynch-pin of Democrats former control when GOP wins 96 House seats. Now spend their days watching conservative Democrat legislators switch to the GOP. Democratic caucus is fractured between Blacks, urban liberal Whites, and the remaining conservative Dems. It could take 20 years for the Democratic Party to come out of this funk.
Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor: The Big Guy had absolutely no ability to lead his party when they had control. Now the challenge for the Democrats Number One Guy is to try and find a glimmer of hope in a fading future.
State Representative Tom Bordeaux (D-Savannah): Wins re-election in the battle of the wallets only to see his party lose control of the House. Now he is a man without a caucus, as he is shunned by conservative Dems, doesnt qualify for the Black Legislative Caucus, and is ignored by legislators with a similar political agenda who are from Atlanta. If it wasnt for bad luck, Bordeaux wouldnt have any luck at all.
Chatham County Citizens: With the Gang of Five de-fanged and defeated, citizens may need to watch their pocketbooks, their environment and their reputation. The gangs legacy of bringing solvency to a broken budget process, merging of police departments, and most importantly, reforming the tax assessors office, fell on deaf voters. Now voters have a commission that will play nice, but with no leadership or vision.
David Simons is a political consultant who has worked for and against many of the politicians he names above. He also serves as a political analyst on the Ben Bennett radio program, WJCL/ABC & WTGS/FOX TV, and the print media.