Gut Rumbles

November 21, 2004

Damn, I'm Good

Democrats Size Up Perdue James Salzer, Atlanta Urinal-Constipation

As soon as Karen Arms saw Mark Taylor walk through the crowd at a Savannah rally, she had to know his plans.

"Tell me you're going to run against Sonny Perdue," Arms pleaded.

The lieutenant governor's broad smile gave Arms, a biology textbook author, all the assurance she needed.

Even though the next gubernatorial election isn't for nearly two years, Taylor had been running against Perdue for months before this month's presidential election. He opened a campaign account to raise money shortly after the 2004 legislative session ended in April.

And Secretary of State Cathy Cox, another likely Democratic challenger to Perdue, has been getting the kind of publicity that would make almost any candidate envious. The Secretary of State is starring in a $3 million TV advertising campaign that warns Georgia's elderly against scam artists trying to steal their retirement money.

But the Nov. 2 Democratic election debacle is causing a number of potential statewide candidates to review their options.

"I don't think you can look at the governor's race the same way you did prior to Nov. 2," said Rep. Georganna Sinkfield (D-Atlanta). "It may not change people's minds, but you are going to have to look back at the election to see what happened."

Democrats lost their only hold on the General Assembly the state House and now face the next two years as the minority party. That will probably allow the Republican majority to pass Gov. Sonny Perdue's agenda, most of which stalled in the formerly Democratic House.

In addition, this year's elections left Democrats with fewer lawmakers from outside metro Atlanta, making the party more urban and some believe raising the possibility that a top black elected official such as Attorney General Thurbert Baker or Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond would consider the governor's race.

Arms, who has worked as a volunteer for Democrats in Savannah, sees a train wreck coming if the party doesn't settle on a candidate.

I said in a comment here that I thought Taylor will run against Perdue. Being a Democrat lite-gubnor, he had already been stripped of his state Senate powers by the new Republican majority in January 2003. Now that neither house has a Democrat majority, he really has nothing to lose by going for the brass ring.

I also said I don't think Cathy Cox will run for governor, and I stand by that. She's well respected as secretary of state, and if she decides to stay put and run for re-election to that office I think she stands a good chance of winning.

Thurbert Baker I don't know so much about. It's quite possible he could be vulnerable if he seeks re-election as attorney general -- but I read somewhere he's the first black constitutional officer in Georgia elected in his own right without having been appointed to the job first. That speaks well of Baker, if not well at all of Georgia's Democratic Party leadership. They ought to have been grooming black candidates for high office all along (as should the national party, which also hasn't) to be able to win on their own merits. Thurbert Baker being the first, you can be sure the ranks of the not-first are thin.

In this post back at blogoSFERICS, I quoted from a column by political columnist Bill Shipp, a Democrat. One of Shipp's points I didn't quote had to do with the Georgia Democratic Party becoming increasingly the party of black voters. Shipp was careful not to say that was by itself a bad thing, but he was concerned that if the party's face in Georgia continued to change in that direction, it would make its recovery far more difficult. This attitude bears on the situation with Baker, and I believe it derives from the continued Democrat self-delusion that white Southerners aren't ready to share power with blacks on an equal footing.

All this makes Thurbert Baker a wild card; either the party leadership will discourage him and succeed, or it will discourage him and fail. I have no doubt they will try to discourage him.

It's going to be a very interesting two years in Georgia for people who go in for this kind of thing.

As for this line:

Arms, who has worked as a volunteer for Democrats in Savannah, sees a train wreck coming if the party doesn't settle on a candidate.

If the Democrats here in Georgia had any better idea why they're suddenly losing elections, than their national counterparts, they might have a chance of avoiding that train wreck. But I think their campaign against Sonny Perdue is going to look a lot like Kerry's campaign against George W. Bush.

Posted by McGehee.

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