In all of Georgia’s history, the Republicans have been out of power. Over the past thirty years and with as much progress as a snail can make in that time, the Republicans have slowly tried to change that.
In the last decade of the last century, wily Democrats, seeking to boost Democratic numbers to the House of Representatives, gerrymandered the state congressional lines. The result, in 1994, gave the Republicans a majority of the Congressional delegation. At the same time, Republican Paul Coverdell was leading Georgia’s Senate delegation as the Senior Senator.
In 2000, the Democrats tried to shut out the Republicans again. The result? In 2002, the Republicans increased their dominance of the House delegation, even winning in districts that were, for all practical purposes, true Democratic districts. At the same time, the snail’s pace became a tidal wave’s pace.
Roy Barnes, the Democratic governor in 2002, did just about everything possible to make just about everyone possible mad. His political incompetence swept Republicans into the Governor’s mansion for the first time since Georgia was founded (excluding a political appointment during the Civil War). If that wasn’t good enough, Saxby Chambliss gave Max Cleland the boot in the U.S. Senate and the Republicans in the State Senate got so close to a majority, several Democrats switched parties and now the Republicans have the Senate, the Governor, the U.S. House delegation, and the U.S. Senate delegation (we’ll count Zell and, besides, Isakson is a shoe-in). Now they have set their sights on the Georgia House of Representatives.
Fractious and backstabbing is how Georgia Republicans use to be labeled. Frequently, the GOP was prone to a circular firing squad. In the State House where majority was never an option, factions and fissures were prone to grow as Republican representatives vied for the top spot in the minority. Bob Irvin, a relatively inept, though loyal conservative, was forced out and Lynn Westmoreland walked into the miority leader’s post. The House Republican leadership rallied and focused. 2002 came and a Republican picked off Tom Murphy, the nation’s longest serving House Speaker and an institution in Georgia. The Republicans did not take the House, but they saw the promised land on the horizon.
In 2004, Lynn Westmoreland left to run for Congress. Glenn Richardson, an extremely likable person with a soft demeanor and a winner’s attitude, took over. With Jay Walker, the Chief of Staff for House Republicans at his side, Glenn and company are set to complete the transfer of power to Republicans in Georgia through dedication, focus, and skill.
While the Democrats keep saying that the odds of a Republican takeover are unlikely, the Republicans are fielding a team of qualified candidates – generally better qualified than in previous years. The Republicans are fielding people like Allen Freeman and Jim Cole in Middle Georgia, attractive candidates with good resumes and natural political talent. More than just fielding candidates, the once fratricidal House Republicans and the Governor are supporting the candidates zealously.
Fund raisers are being held across the state on a regular basis. Donors who have not given in a long time are being visited and encouraged to give. Hope has been renewed among state level Republicans. They have done their homework and they are ready to fight. Through all of it, the Democrats are silent.
It is not a new tactic for the Democrats. Ask any Republican and they will tell you what the Democrats intend. While silent on the surface, the Democrats are building a dirt file on all the Republicans. The information does not have to be true, just believable to voters who know no better. About two weeks from the election, the Democrats will unleash their attack. The Republicans will be painted as racist, womanizing, child hating baby eaters. The attack will be nonstop and relentless. The silence is only the calm before storm.
Will it work this year? Probably not. The Republicans are more coordinated than they ever have been. The Democrats are desperate. Desperate people do desperate things. But, the districts lean Republican. The Democrats’ last hope is that the rural voters who so often vote Democrat locally and Republican nationally will continue that pattern. With a rural Georgia Republican in the Governor’s mansion and a rural Georgia Republican about to become the state’s senior United States Senator, that hope might be fleeting. The tidal wave has not yet receded. When it does, it will take a two hundred year old Democratic Party with it and leave behind a Republican Party in full control of Georgia.