Maybe Jackson County could be the poster child of the Republican movement in Georgia.
When Pat Bell lost a state house seat in 2002, she said her defeat may have caused because she ran as a Democrat. Two years later, she ran for commission chairwoman in Jackson County. This time as a Republican, so she won.
Two years ago, no Democrat bothered to run for state house in the Republican-leaning 31st District (Jackson County is the largest part of the district). That appears to be the case again this year. There is a candidate – Tommy Stephenson – but he appears to be running in name only. It seems no one from the Democratic Party in Hall or Jackson counties knows how to contact him.
So, it wasn’t much of a surprise earlier this year when no Democrats qualified to run for local seats in Jackson County.
“Some say Jackson County is becoming more conservative,” former Jackson County Commission Chairman Harold Fletcher told the Athens Banner-Herald in 2000. “I don’t think it’s that as much as the fact that Democrats have become so liberal. People in Jackson County have no place else to go.”
Maybe the party has become “too liberal” for its own candidates.
But don’t think Jackson County is an anomaly; Republican fervor can be found throughout the state. These days, it seems, a candidate in many parts of the state needs an “R” next to his name on the ballot to get elected in Georgia. I’m not passing judgment, just offering a friendly observation.
Gov. Sonny Perdue, for example, is a reformed Democrat. That was certainly a hot topic among the Bill Byrne campaign in 2002. Byrne, you’ll recall, ran against Perdue in the Republican gubernatorial primary. In the end, it didn’t matter, as Perdue won. But, by 2002, the race to Republican was well under way, even if the takeover of the General Assembly wasn’t complete until 2004.
But, even if you’re not a Republican candidate in Georgia, there’s a good chance you’re not a so-called “pink-o liberal.”
Perhaps the most interesting race for U.S. Congress this year will take place in Macon where Republican Mac Collins looks to unseat incumbent Jim Marshall, a Democrat. Marshall is a member of the NRA and a strong supporter of the Iraq War, The Associated Press reported earlier this month. So much the supporter, Marshall was the only Democrat to attend a private party Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hosted when Deputy Paul Wolfowitz stepped down, according to that same report.
“Marshall has spent four years making sure you knew that he wasn’t a liberal, and he’s been pretty effective at making that case,” Chris Grant, a political science professor at Mercer University in Macon, told AP.
Still, Republicans have made Marshall a target during this election, but he is hardly a Democrat in the Nancy Pelosi mold. It’ll be interesting to see how this race ends and what pundits say is the election means.
Perhaps the very notion that voters put Marshall in office shows the type of candidate many Georgia voters are unwilling to support, even in traditionally Democratic areas. Maybe that led, at least in part, to the demise of Cynthia McKinney earlier this year.