Win Or Lose In November, Dems Will Get A New Chairman In January 2007
[Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia Bobby] Kahn first was planning to step down in September when the party meets in College Park for its state convention on Sept. 16. That would have given the party’s gubernatorial nominee – Mark Taylor – a chance to help choose the new party chairman.
But party elders decided it probably wasn’t a good thing to change horses in the middle of the stream. Now a new chairman won’t be chosen until January.
With momentum seeming to belong to the Republicans right now, can the party ever bounce back?
Mike Berlon thinks so. Just now, he’s the only announced candidate to succeed Kahn, although high-ranking Democrats think the action may pick up considerably in that race after November.
Berlon, a sole-practitioner lawyer in Gwinnett County, chairs the Democratic party there and is vice chairman of the Georgia Association of Democratic County chairs. Besides laboring in party activities, he’s also seen action as a candidate. He got 21 percent of the vote against popular Republican Congressman John Linder in 2002 and got 28 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary for PSC in 2004, losing to Mac Barber (who lost in the general election.)
Democrats, indeed, face a rebuilding task, he said. “Democrats had been in power for such a long time, we got pretty comfortable with the fact the governor was going to be a Democrat. And when you’re the incumbent, it’s very easy to raise money. One of the big challenges for state Democrats is to figure out how to coordinate fundraising,” he said.
So what happened to Democrats in Georgia?
“It was like the perfect storm. A series of events – teachers, flaggers, low voter turnout,” he said. “One lesson we got is that GOTV (get-out-the-vote) doesn’t just mean you go on television. You need to be more grassroots, have more of an infrastructure than rely on the governor’s office.”
Berlon views 2002 as an aberration, says he thinks Taylor has an “excellent chance,” and believes Georgians fundamentally remain Democrats on the state level, Republican on the national.
But whether Taylor wins or loses, he said, he still wants to chair the party.
“You can’t say you want to do the job but only if Democrats win the governor’s mansion. The real test is, worst-case, what do you do if Mark Taylor loses. That’s where the real work begins,” he said.
Democrats have typically given their gubernatorial nominees a big hand in choosing the leaders of their party. Changing the election of the chairman from September to January may mark something of a change in philosophy and, indeed, some members of the party’s ruling executive committee do believe there should be more separation between elected officials and the party, itself.
A Democratic victory in November could sweep all that talk aside, of course. A Democratic loss could whip it up again.