A rising tide gave way to a tidal wave on November 2, 2004, in Georgia. The 134 year advance of the Republican Party finally crashed over the Democrats entrenched in the State House of Representatives.
By the rising sun on Wednesday, November 3, it was clear that the Democrats had been washed out and set adrift at sea. The Republicans, having taken the State Senate and Governor’s Mansion in 2002, had captured the Georgia House of Representatives for the first time. On Monday, when the Republican caucus convened in the State House, 96 Republicans appeared. By noon there were 97, with a Democrat jumping ship. By the end of the day, there were 98 with rumors of more Democrats on the way. The Democrats, once the party of rural Georgia, have become an inner city, urban party, dominated by black politicians like Calvin Smyre and urban liberals. The shift has been dramatic. A fragile coalition forged between rural white Democrats, black Democrats, and urban liberal Democrats that put the rural whites in charge while giving significant authority to black politicians will now be tested. Some are already predicting more rural white Democrats, who typically share Republican ideals on the national level, will walk across the aisle.
For the first time Georgia has a new dominate party. It looks like it will stay that way for a while. The older white Democrats are retiring and dying off. New voters who lean Republican have no natural loyalty to them. It is a new day in Georgia and the rest of the South is following. The next great dynamic in Georgia will be the Governor’s office. Currently held by a Republican, Sonny Perdue, several Democrats elected state wide like Cathy Cox and Mark Taylor lust after the job. Perdue is not a native Republican. He switched parties after rising to the top of the Democratic leadership in the State Senate. He was cast aside as a pariah and then rose through Republican ranks to become Georgia’s first Republican Governor.
There are rumors out that Perdue might be challeneged from within by a “pure bred” Republican. Given Republican loyalties, any primary challenger would be foolish. But, Perdue is now going to have to show that, with a Republican General Assembly, he can govern and govern effectively. Otherwise the advancing Republican wave might, like the Democrats, retreat back to the shoreline.