Want one extremely interesting election to watch in 2006? Check out the Georgia governor’s race. It use to be that the governor’s race was fought out in the Democratic primary. In 2002, Sonny Perdue changed all of that when he became the first elected Republican Governor in the State of Georgia, ever. In the process, we swept the State Senate into Republican territory, marginalizing a moderately powerful and ambitious Lieutenant Governor, Mark Taylor. In 2004, the Republicans finally took over the State House, crippling Democrats across the state.

Whoever gets Franklin’s endorsement will have a quantifiable advantage — quantifiable by volunteers and voters in Franklin’s metro-Atlanta machine.

Already out raising millions of dollars for the Democratic nomination is Mark Taylor. He has always wanted to be Governor and intended to run in 2006, after Roy Barnes finished his second term. Things did not go according to plan. Now Taylor is going to have competition for the Democratic nomination, something he thought he had in the bag. Secretary of State Cathy Cox, one of the most popular politicians in the state, officially filed her paperwork yesterday to being running for governor. Cox, who even Republicans credit with not falling into an ethical quagmire by refusing to declare a run and raise money during the election season, will have some heavy lifting to do (and no, we aren’t referring to Mark Taylor’s size). Cox, because of her unwillingness to declare until after the 2004 general election, has been on the air constantly for several months with ads paid for by the Secretary of State’s office. The ads focused on senior citizen scams and ran heavily across the state. This was her only outlet to raise her profile while Taylor was out seeking endorsements and raising money. Cox, however, will be able to raise money for three months in 2005 and 2006, when Taylor cannot. State law prohibits the governor and members of the legislature from raising money when the state legislature is in session.

Taylor, whose ads tout him as “the big guy,” has been neutered by a Republican Senate still stretching its legs. The Lieutenant Governor did have some semblance of power when the Democrats were in charge. Now, he sits on the sidelines trying to herd the cats of the Democratic party. Cox, on the other hand, has had some real power as Secretary of State. She’s used that power to help decide contested election issues and other issues that could benefit Democrats whose endorsements she’ll need. She’s also been willing to get divisions of her office outside Atlanta to create new jobs in areas of the state. Cox, as Secretary of State, has a larger statewide profile than the Lieutenant Governor due to the very nature of her office. Most interesting, Cox also has a good relationship with Sonny Perdue — a little something extra that will make this race interesting.

The Democrats will now be forced to fight a bruising, bloody primary between the last two white1. giants of Georgia’s Democratic party. Cox, the popular female from South Georgia, versus Taylor, the large and largely ambitious alpha male from South Georgia. Neither will be willing to cede ground and, adding to the fireworks, many in the Democratic party have allied themselves solidly with both. These people will now have to choose, or stay on the sidelines hurting all involved by prolonging the blood bath.

In the Republican corner, Perdue will find a united party that is not so much united behind him as the party is behind the idea of the party controlling the governor’s mansion. Perdue came in with a team of young happening politicos who, in their first few years in office, have shown quite capably that they had no idea what they were doing. Now they have one more year to prove they can govern effectively with an agenda that helps both Atlanta and rural Georgia. If the GOP keeps up the organization that led Bush and Isakson to victory in 2004, Perdue should have a tough, but very winnable fight, unless a disgruntled Republican enters the primary against him — unlikely at this point.

The biggest loser in all of this? Metro-Atlanta. For the first time in a long time, Atlanta and its suburbs will not have anyone running on the top ticket. Everyone will be from South Georgia, where values and accents are different. The one card Atlanta has to play in this race, and it is the trump card, is the endorsement of Shirley Franklin, the extremely popular black mayor of Atlanta, in the Democratic primary. Democratic primary voters are increasingly black and predominately live in metro-Atlanta. Franklin could be the king (or queen) maker in this race and will, if the past is the best indicator of the future, play her cards close to her chest and shrewdly. Whoever gets Franklin’s endorsement will have a quantifiable advantage — quantifiable by volunteers and voters in Franklin’s metro-Atlanta machine.

Oh, and we wonder if we’ve heard the last from the flaggers? A Democratic Primary in Georgia is largely African-American, but will Taylor, who portrays himself as a good old boy from South Georgia, pull the rebel flag out of his pocket and open old wounds. Given his history of seeking any political advantage possible, it’s a real possibility, especially if Franklin goes with Cox. Georgia has open primaries and with no major Republican primaries on the horizon in 2006, there is a large pool of voters who might want in on the fight.

Let the bloodbath begin.

1.Georgia has several state wide elected black Democrats. None have been willing to go beyond their office. Thurbert Baker, the Attorney General, and Michael Thurmond, the Labor Commissioner, have been quite content to sit where they are.