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NOVEMBER 6, 2002
Voters have more at stake in Tuesdays election than simply deciding which avowed conservatives (Democrats or Republicans) are going represent us in Atlanta and Washington.
The partisan control of the U.S. Senate and House may rest in the hands of the Georgia electorate. We also may help decide the direction of the next presidential election.
Lets look at the U.S. Senate race. As it has been from the start, the battle between Max Cleland and Saxby Chambliss remains a tug of war between surrogates - Sen. Zell Miller and President George W. Bush. Even if Miller opposes Cleland in D.C., he has remained solidly in Maxs corner throughout the election season. And President Bush is spending as much time as he can afford promoting Chambliss. Despite what you hear on TV, this race is not about homeland security or Boy Scouts or social security. It is about winning a majority of the Senate.
If Chambliss wins, Bush and his Republicans may have enough votes to carry the day in the Senate, confirm their judicial appointments and gain approval for most of their legislative package.
If Cleland prevails, Democrats will probably retain narrow control of the Senate as well as the ability to maintain gridlock in the national arena (not always a bad thing). Just how the Democrats will treat Miller after the smoke clears remains to be seen. Georgias junior senator is a Democratic friend indeed on the campaign trail. On the Senate floor, hes a treacherous rattlesnake, more likely to bite his natural Democratic buds than his perceived Republican enemies.
The governors race: If Barnes wins, national headlines will hail him as another New South Governor and the voice of progress and moderation. An invitation to speak in New Hampshire will undoubtedly arrive shortly. If the New York Times decides Barnes has brought a breath of fresh air to the national scene, then Roy may be off to the big-time races.
To his credit, Barnes swears he will not heed the national sirens call. He wants to finish what he has started: school reform and improved transportation. And for second-termers, nothing feels as good as a little game of get-even with those summertime Democrats who defected during the autumn election campaigns.
If Perdue wins, he will presumably keep his promise. Georgia will have a referendum on the state flag, and once again the Confederate battle banner will unfurl over the statehouse. In exchange, we can say good-bye to future Super Bowls, NCAA tournaments, large international conventions and probably Coca-Colas corporate headquarters. A Perdue victory would put an anti-Atlanta guy in the Gold Dome for the first time in years. Georgia would also have a mans governor (a hunter and horseman as depicted on TV) instead of a chief executive who constantly caters to the womens vote. We also might experience a near-total turnover in the state governments managerial personnel (again, maybe not a bad thing).
In the lieutenant governors tilt, incumbent Mark Taylor appears safely out of reach of Republican challenger Steve Stancil. Though Stancil is a solid contender, Taylors better-than-anybody-elses commercials put him well out of harms way.
* * *
Three hotly contested congressional races also figure into which party may control the U.S. House:
Third District: Bibb County Commissioner Calder Clay (R) is in an uphill battle against former Macon Mayor Jim Marshall (D) in a decidedly Democratic district - but one that was drawn in the vain hope of keeping Saxby Chambliss from going statewide. Polls show Marshall ahead, but Clay is gaining ground. Marshalls high-profile primary victory over Perry attorney Chuck Byrd may have given him a name-recognition edge that Clay cannot overcome.
Eleventh District: This congressional race may be the bitterest and most expensive ever staged in Georgia. With the backing of House Speaker Tom Murphy, businessman Roger Kahn wrecked the primary hopes of Democrat ex-Rep. Buddy Darden to return to Congress. Now Kahn is engaged in a brutal match with Republican state Sen. Phil Gingrey, a die-hard foe of the Barnes administration and ardent pro-life advocate. The race has centered on Kahns immense wealth and Gingreys questionable legislative record.
Twelfth District: Champ Walker was handpicked by his pop, state Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker, to waltz into Washington as the representative of the new 12th District, custom tailored for the heir to the Walker political dynasty. The waltz has turned into a barroom brawl with much of the electorate shocked at Walkers police record and other problems. Republican Max Burns, a professor at Georgia Southern, should start working on his maiden speech before the House. A lesson here for the Democrats: Before bestowing the partys blessing, vet all candidates, even if they happen to be sons of VIPs.
Turnout is the golden key to victory in every one of these races. Watch the TV commercials in the hours before the election. The positive spots are aimed largely at women. Look for lots of kids, messages of pathos, but very little war talk.
Still, the big story of Election Day 2002 in Georgia may not be simply the outcome of the elections - but whether Georgia escapes disaster as the first state to adopt a uniform electronic balloting system to serve its 5.6 million registered voters. The majority of whom will sit on their hands on Election Day and then spend the next two years complaining about the results.
By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
November 6, 2002
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