More Jackson County Opinions...

July 23, 2003


Column
By:Bill Shipp
The Jackson Herald
July 23, 2003

Why the Democrats’ flame still flickers
Is the Democratic Party dead in Georgia?
No, but it is gasping for breath.
Unless Democrats recapture a majority in the state Senate in next year’s election, the once-omnipotent donkeys could fade away as a force in statewide politics.
Georgia government will again be in the hands of one party, except this time it will be the Grand Old Party.
Consider the growing muscle of the Georgia GOP:
Republicans hold a solid majority among the state’s white voters and control nearly all the growth areas in the state. We have a Republican governor, one Republican senator, eight of 13 Republicans in our congressional delegation plus a Republican-dominated state Senate.
Democrats remain strong in most Georgia cities, but the population in several urban areas is either declining or lagging in growth far behind the rest of the state.
Democrats retain a majority in the state House. However, the party’s House hierarchy is aging and under constant Republican fire.
A veteran Democrat, Rep. Mike Snow of LaFayette, is fighting for his political life in a special election Tuesday against a formidable Republican challenger, Jay Neal. (Oddly, Neal eschewed campaign help from Gov. Sonny Perdue. Neal has criticized fellow Republican Perdue sharply for advocating a tobacco tax increase and for trying to sidestep a referendum on the 1956 state flag.)
Because Democratic candidate recruitment, especially for Congress, has all but vanished, several important elections are virtually certain to be settled in next year’s Republican primary, just a year away on July 20, 2004.
Democrats have been unable to find a strong candidate for the U.S. Senate to succeed retiring Democrat Zell Miller. The party’s great hope, Congressman Jim Marshall, D-Macon, is expected to pass up a Senate bid. Talk of drafting UGA Athletics Director Vince Dooley is a pipedream. So a primary contest between 6th District Rep. Johnny Isakson and 8th District Rep. Mac Collins will give Georgia a second Republican U.S. Senator.
(Isakson currently appears to have the edge. The nascent Collins campaign has stumbled with talk of reshuffling consultants and rumors of a nasty scandal.)
Only one contested congressional district — the crazy-quilt 12th that includes Athens, Augusta and Savannah — is expected to be in play for Democrats next year. Demographics suggest the district is heavily Democratic, though conservative Republican Max Burns won the district seat in 2002. The reason: Democrats arrogantly offered a very weak candidate, Champ Walker, for the post.
At this juncture, President George W. Bush appears so likely to sweep the South, including Georgia, that the Democratic presidential nominee may decide to forfeit the Old Confederacy, as Al Gore did in 2000.
Still, hope springs eternal. Democrats say they have a good shot at making a comeback in the state Senate. They reel off at least 10 Republican Senate seats, including those for four party defectors, that will be competitive in next year’s election. Democrats hold two seats in the danger zone. A net gain of three seats gives the Senate back to the Democrats, reinstalls Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor as the all-powerful presiding officer and puts Democrats in complete charge of the Legislature.
Republican leaders, sensing the threat, have pulled out the stops to block the Democrats.
Gov. Perdue’s repeated legal assaults on Democratic Attorney General Thurbert Baker’s powers are rooted in an attempt to block a Democratic takeover of the Senate. The governor’s failed attempt to keep Democrat Terry Coleman from becoming speaker of the House was meant to clear the way for a Republican redistricting of the Senate, which requires House approval.
Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson threatened to bury House bills in the upper chamber in a vain effort to force House approval of a more Republican-friendly Senate map.
In truth, much of the disarray and several of the failures of the prolonged legislative session can be traced directly to the GOP’s obsession with preserving power in the state Senate.
Without a majority in both houses of the General Assembly, Republicans — despite their triumphs for other offices — are still at the mercy of Democrats.
And who knows? If Democrats can increase their beachhead with a comeback in the Legislature, they might rise again to offer a formidable candidate for governor in 2006 and even allow Georgia to become important again in the presidential contest of 2008.
For Democrats in most states, that “if” would appear almost insurmountable.
In Georgia, however, Republicans have a history of turning victories into political train wrecks. Which explains why Georgia was the last state in the South to go Republican, and why the Democratic flame still flickers here in spite of the long odds against the once-dominant party.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or e-mail: bshipp@bellsouth.net, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com

Jackson County Opinion Index

Column
By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
July 23, 2003

Vacation time makes home pure paradise
There’s nothing like a week’s vacation to make home pure paradise.
My small family recently boarded a plane to Reno, Nevada, where we landed without mishap and then drove onto South Lake Tahoe, which may be the most beautiful lake in the world. Freezing cold, but pretty. The whole Lake Tahoe area is surrounded by huge mountains capped with snow nearly year-round and the water is so clear that you can see a plate placed on the bottom 60 feet down.
The weather was nippy Sunday night for a pool party hosted by our hotel with Florida people carrying their plates indoors to eat in their rooms. And then Monday it snowed. To say I was unprepared for snow would be an understatement. I had been told the weather was cooler and that at night it would cool down to 50 degrees so I brought one pair of jeans and no long sleeve shirts. Monday around one p.m. P.S.T., the snow began to fall making the road outside our hotel icy and cresting the mountains with a sinowy blanket of the white stuff. The weatherman said we made the record low temperature for June. We went to the Ponderosa Ranch Monday night where I spent most of the night huddling by fires.
Tuesday it warmed up into the low 70s which was good since we spent the afternoon on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Many young kids brought bathing suits and jumped in, but I wasn’t in the least bit tempted. Even on the warmest day in August, the lake water is only 60 degrees and only the top four feet or so. The rest is ice cold. Lake Tahoe is the second deepest Alpine lake in the world with enough water in the 72-mile perimeter lake to cover the entire state of California in 10 inches of water or enough water to cover the entire state of Texas in four inches of water. Our guide told us there are points on the lake where the water is six feet deep with a sharp drop of 1,000 feet. People don’t actually know what’s on the bottom of Lake Tahoe, but our helpful guide told us it is the best place to ensure your body is found thousands of years later well preserved. People who drown in Lake Tahoe never resurface because of the depth of the lake. Because the pressure is greater at the bottom, bodies sink down and are cryogenically frozen by the water. I don’t believe I’ll ever swim in the water (you know because of the bodies and the mastadons and whatever else may be down there), but I did drink it. (I really don’t know why drinking it is OK, but swimming is not.) The water is 99.8 percent pure—the same purity rating as bottled spring water. It was very sweet and I brought a bottle of it home with me which I’m sure someone will one day mistakenly drink it since it is in a Canadian Spring Water bottle.
Wednesday we packed our rental car up and drove four hours to San Francisco. From that road trip I learned two things. First, most of Nevada is really big dead hills of sand. And what trees are there are evergreens, which apparently catch fire really easy since acres of treese were merely burned sticks stuck in the ground. And secondly that Donner Pass is apparently a big tourist attraction. There’s a Donner grocery store, a Donner gas station, a Donner town, a Donner ski lodge, a Donner museum where you can buy Donner hats and Donner T-shirts. Do people know that Donner Pass was where settlers became trapped one winter long ago and so they ate one another? It doesn’t seem like something we should name grocery stores after to say the least.
We arrived in San Francisco to 95 degree weather, 20 degrees above average. Which the newscasters were hailing as a miracle because finally kids could swim in the bay before August which is when San Francisco has its four days of summer—June and July are usually characterized by 72 degree days. Though to us Georgians it really felt like 80 degrees, because there was no humidity and there was this wonderful cool breeze blowing off of the Pacific Ocean. Chinatown was our first stop. That was an experience. I found some tacky things that I couldn’t live without and I ate the best Chinese food ever very inexpensively. The prices of everything outside of Chinatown were super inflated. California peaches were $2.69 a pound. A bowl of soup was $5.49. Gas was $2 if we were lucky. We paid $39 a night to park our car in the hotel garage and everywhere else in the historical section of San Francisco charged $10 an hour and they had full lots. Thursday the weatherman said we had broken the record for highest temperature in June for the second day. We spent some time on Fisherman’s Wharf catching the sights and doing some shopping. We rode the cable cars up and down the hills which are really unbelievablely steep. Imagine the steepest portion of Stone Mountain where they have the hand rail and you walk sideways, that’s the type of hills on Powell Street. There’s no way anyone in Georgia would have built a city on land that hilly. They’d find a better place or else level it off. But the city is charming. The homes and buildings are wonderfully historic which has always appealed to me so I really enjoyed every minute.
Friday we toured the Benziger winery in Sonoma County, California. That was a real tour—not just here’s our vats and here’s our tasting room. We went into the fields where the grapes are, learned about how taste develops in wine because of where it grows and how much sun it gets and then toured the facility where they press the wine. And we got to go into their wine caves, which are very aromatic. The caves are naturally cold and humid so it saves the winery money since they don’t have to refridgerate a large area to cool the wine and because of the humidity, very little wine evaporates.
But it’s good to be home. I began wanting my own home mid-week and by Saturday, I was calling to find out if there were any earlier flights. There was, but I didn’t miss home so badly that I was willing to pay $300 extra to get there 12 hours earlier. So I stuck it out and ended up having some fun Saturday with a cousin of mine that lives in Reno now. And Sunday evening we had dinner at home. By bedtime, I had once again donned my mantle of stress. The list of things that needed to be done was running through my head once more, hunching my shoulders into tension balls. I wish I would have been able to leave that behind on the West coast with all of the rude people who live there.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist with MainStreet Newspapers


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