UPDATE on Let the games begin. The 2006 Democratic Matchup for Governor.
The "L" word part of the post's title is in bold to emphasize the direction this campaign took on its first day -- more accurately stated as the spin on this campaign today from the Mark Taylor camp.
A one sentence summary of the first day of campaigning between the duo:
Cox came out attacking Gov. Perdue. Taylor came out attacking Cox.
Being the southern gentleman that I am, it is only natural that we go with:
The Lady first:
Cathy's first volley was across Perdue's bow. In an interview, she accused the governor of waging "unproductive, wasteful and divisive" political battles. She cited Perdue's efforts to get rural Democrats to switch to the Republican Party, rather than finding issues to unite lawmakers.
"I want to devote my energy to trying to build consensus in getting both Republicans and Democrats to buy into productive solutions for the problems Georgians are dealing with," Cox said.
She did not outline a platform Monday, but her campaign Web site pledges to "improve education, provide access to high quality health care and promote economic development in every region of Georgia."
"I feel like Georgia's at a critical stage and will be in the next couple of years. If we don't make some real progress in education and economic development and other issues, we're going to lose the great luster that has attracted millions of Georgians to this state over the last decade," she said.
In her announcement posted on her Web site, Cox states: "I believe Georgia is ready for a governor who takes us beyond partisan one-upmanship and is willing to work with people of all political parties to get things done. I will be that kind of governor."
Addressing Gov. Perdue's role in gaining control of the Senate through party switches shortly after his election, Cox said in an interview:
"That is part of a tone I want to change in government. We've got to get beyond one party trying to dominate and being unwilling to work with people of another party. I'm not going to expend any of my energies convincing people to switch parties. I want to build consensus between Republicans and Democrats, not further divide them."
Noting that in the last six weeks, four Republican activists asked her to switch parties, three of them suggesting she run as a Republican for lieutenant governor, Cox stated: "I take that as a good sign I am the kind of candidate that can attract Democrat and Republican support."
(I believe this is the first time we have been informed of the numbers of Republicans who had approached Cox about switching parties.)
Apparently in keeping with what is a very obvious early campaign theme that she is a leader who can work with both political parties, Cox has chosen former Rep. Dan Ponder Jr., a Republican from South Georgia, to serve as her campaign manager.
(Ponder is from Donalsonville -- county seat of Seminole County immediately to the west of Cathy's home in Decatur County -- and you might recall that he is the person who gave the impassioned speech on the floor of the state House several years ago in support of Georgia's hate crimes bill during Barnes' administration. And although a Republican, he was not one by birth, having switched to the GOP in 1997 after being elected in 1996 to the House seat Cathy and her father once held.)
According to the ajc's PI, Ponder says "[Cox] can transcend party lines to bring civility back to politics."
Sid's spin: The above quotes were taken from the three newspaper articles noted below, and represented statements made by Cathy either in interviews, on her Web site, or during her announcement.
I've already noted Cathy's early campaign theme of running on a platform of having Democrats and Republicans work together under her leadership.
And from her words about the Gov., she intends to portray him as a divider.
Does this remind us of any recent political campaign? How about 2000, Bush vs. Gore?
Bush pointed to his own record of dealing with a Democrat-controlled Texas legislature, and cast himself as a President who would be a "uniter not a divider."
Are we to perceive an analogy here with our Republican-controlled Georgia legislature, and Cox casting herself as a Governor who would be a "uniter not a divider?"
(And a quick P.S. about Cathy: When you hear the name Mark, think Mark Dehler. Who is that? Cathy's husband of course.)
Now to the Big Guy:
The Taylor camp picked up on the "L" theme floated a couple of weeks ago by Nick Ayers, executive director of the Perdue political campaign, as he was denying that Cox had been approached by emissaries from Perdue.
"If Cathy Cox didn't support Cynthia McKinney, John Kerry and gay marriage, she'd fit great into the Georgia Republican Party, but she does," Ayers said. (12-17-04 ajc.)
Was this theme in the making prior to this comment by the Perdue campaign? I don't know, although I wish I did.
Mark Taylor spokesman Rick Dent had this to say about Cathy's announcement that she was a go:
"Now we will see if Mark Taylor's experience, his record on schools, jobs and protecting families and his moderate views on the issues can beat a liberal like Cox in a Democratic primary."
"As this campaign progresses, it will be clear that the views of Cox and her key backers are out of the mainstream and out of step for the voters in Georgia," Dent also said.
Dent reported that Cox was courting financial support from EMILY's List, one of the nation's largest PAC's that seeks to elect pro-choice Democratic women candidates.
Dent called EMILY's List "a very liberal special interest group."
Cox acknowledged that she has spoken with EMILY's List, but said she has received no endorsement.
As we all know, Taylor is off to the early lead in the money race. He has a strong track record as a fund-raiser, something I have written about before on this blog. It truly is a machine, headed up by one very accomplished and talented person.
According to campaign financial reports, Taylor had $1.1 million on hand in June. Since then, he has raised another $500,000 according to Rick Dent.
(It may be recalled that political consultant Rick Dent joined Denise Majette's campaign and became its spokesman after the Aug. 10 runoff. Previously he had served as Press Secretary to then-Gov. Zell Miller and had worked in Zell's last U.S. Senatorial campaign.)
If this were a baseball game, of course yesterday would not even rank as the top of the first inning. But still perceptions and opinions are formed, sometimes fleeting, sometimes for the duration.
The Lt. Gov., who filed back in April the papers the Secretary of State filed Monday, is obviously in a different situation than Cathy who has just done what he and some other so-called Democratic Party heavies had hoped she would not do.
In announcing, it should have been Cathy's day in the limelight, not his.
Thus for Mark to have come out so aggressively by his spokesman against Cathy on day one really surprised me.
Such could be perceived as giving the appearance that Mark, who some have tried to portray as being the one the preseason odds favor, as already having gone on the defense against one he perceives as the front-runner by his attacking Cathy so early.
What was he supposed to do, say he welcomed her as a competitor and the opportunity to ferret out the issues, etc.? Maybe.
That would have been the statesmanlike, taking the high road approach, something that would not have gone unnoticed given the negative campaigns that have just ended. And doing so may have been perceived by some as a sign of confidence on his own part.
And he could have done this and at the same time begun his "Cathy is a liberal theme" by saying he welcomed the clear choice this presented to Georgians, or some such that just wasn't so negative so early.
On this part of my thinking, I want to emphasize that I do not question the Lt. Gov. wanting to strike early with his "L" theme if this is what his camp has determined is what he wants to be his first shot (and we assume the first of many to come) across Cathy's bow. Thus I am only addressing the negative tone, not the substantive tone of Taylor's campaign.
On a second topic, I especially question why Mr. Dent would want to go after EMILY's list -- a very large and respected grassroots political network that has been around for almost 20 years -- so early and in the press which, of course, is a medium of communication for both sexes.
Women activists in our Party already know the PAC well. Was Mr. Dent hoping to sway them by his comments?
And any hay made with men by such a description "as a very liberal special interest group" might easily be more than offset by alienating some of the female members of our Party faithful.
As noted above, Cox acknowledged that she has spoken with EMILY's List but said she has received no endorsement. Was she being defensive with the "but" part. Maybe, but she shouldn't have been.
Will Cathy make EMILY's List recommended candidates list? Does a cat have climbing gear? Will it help her or hurt her? The former, no question about it, and she would seek and get the endorsement of this group even if she had Taylor's bankroll already lined up.
Overall, I don't think the Taylor camp furthered its objective today, but as noted, this is only the beginning.
And while discussing Taylor, this past Sunday on The Georgia Gang my mentor Bill Shipp said "Mark Taylor has the locks on African-American voters, and thus on the nomination."
I saw the locks this summer, especially in DeKalb and South Fulton.
Do I agree with Mr. Shipp that this translates into the Lt. Gov. having the nomination? Not by a country mile. This thing is wide open.
And to those who complain about this upcoming fight among two qualified, loyal and respected Democrats damaging the Party, I say stay tuned. The Lord works in strange ways.
(The three newspaper articles referred to are: the AP, 12-28-04; the GDP, 12-28-04; Morris News Service, 12-27-04; and the ajc, 12-28-04.)