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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Tom Crawford: "David Nordan knew a lot about Georgia politics and was one of the best political writers this state ever had."

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact writes about his late friend and great Georgia political journalist David Nordan. Tom said he would be honored if I shared it with you readers who enjoy following Georgia politics as I do. Great job Tom!

David Nordan, chronicler of Georgia politics

By Tom Crawford, Capitol Impact

David Nordan was one of those persons who fit the classic stereotype of the hard-drinking, bar-closing, two-fisted newspaper reporter who was the bane of the politicians he wrote about and the curse of the editors who tried to supervise him.

He acquired a national reputation during the 1960s and 1970s as the Washington correspondent and political editor of the Atlanta Journal, in part because he was one of the first to report seriously that an obscure governor from the South named Jimmy Carter had a shot at winning the presidency.

While other Georgia journalists like Reg Murphy ridiculed the notion that Carter would even think of running for president, Nordan wrote perceptive analyses of the Carter phenomenon and how it would play in the political landscape - including what was probably the best analysis of the inauguration speech Carter delivered after he took the oath of office in 1977.

Nordan was just about the best there was at turning a phrase and capturing the color and essence of a story. He looked and acted like an old roughneck from North Carolina, but when it came to putting words down on paper, Nordan was unmatched.

Nordan also made his mark covering state politics and the Georgia General Assembly - he is credited by some with being the first journalist to put the name "Zig-Zag Zell Miller" in print.

"David was a first-rate writer and a tough competitor," said Bill Shipp, who went head-to-head with Nordan as political editor of the Atlanta Constitution. "David had an understanding of Southern politics that few of his peers possessed. When David performed at the level of which he was capable, no one was better."

"He also was one of the few reporters who could ask Gov. Zell Miller three consecutive negative questions without being tossed out - or frozen out - of the governor's office," Shipp added.

Nordan, like Miller, was raised in the Appalachian Mountains and he maintained a friendship with Miller and his sons over the years, working for a brief time in the 1990s as an aide to then-governor Miller.

"He was a great guy and he was a great writer," Miller said. "He wrote a story one time about a dog getting out of the governor's mansion that got run over that I wish I could go back in the archives and find it - a wonderful, funny, touching and tender story, which he could write."

Miller recalled the New Hampshire presidential primary of 1976, when Carter's "Peanut Brigade" spent long hours tramping through the snow, trying to convince New England voters to take a look at their largely unknown candidate.

"He stayed there at the hotel bar and didn't go out much in the cold weather himself," Miller said. "But everybody came by the hotel eventually to warm up, and he would interview them in the bar and get some wonderful stories."

Unfortunately, Nordan's talent for writing was held prisoner to an explosive temper and a tendency to have a few rounds too many at the local tavern. He fought and quarreled continually with the editors at his newspaper, and was finally fired after one booze-fueled fight with an Atlanta Journal editor in 1978. He returned to the Journal-Constitution in the mid-1980s for a brief spell as a feature writer, but was dismissed from that job as well after he was charged with DUI while driving a company car to a story assignment in south Georgia.

Neill Herring, a one-time journalist who now lobbies for environmental causes, tells this story about Nordan's prickly personality: "At Manuel's one night, David came up to me - he was drunk as a billygoat - and started barking at me: 'How come you're always picking on Miller? What did Miller do to you anyway?' I gave him four or five bullet points spelling out exactly why I was unhappy with Miller. About 15 minutes later, Zell walked into Manuel's and David went straight up to him and ran down my own talking points to Miller, he was really in Miller's face. Zell finally said, 'David, I wish I had you down at the capitol right now. You could help me pass a DUI bill.'"

In the years after he left the Atlanta newspapers, Nordan was an editor at Atlanta Magazine, a political reporter for the old Gwinnett Daily News, and a freelance contributor to numerous other publications. He also worked from time to time as a writing instructor at colleges around the metro Atlanta area.

Nordan passed away on April 12 at the age of 67 after being hospitalized for several weeks in the intensive care unit of Atlanta Medical Center. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to its everlasting shame, would not allow any of its reporters to write an obituary of him.

It was left to dozens of his friends, acquaintances, and former co-workers to see him off at a memorial service at Manuel's Tavern, a place where the bartenders kicked him out many times but always relented and let him back in later.

"Let me just say that we're in a room tonight where David would come, get lubricated, and go back and make that typewriter sing and churn out the best political stories the state has ever seen," said commentator-turned-lobbyist Tom Houck. "David was always ahead of his time as a journalist. He was a breed of journalist, yeah, they drank their lunch, but they had a real feeling about what the world was. He loved the written word, and God knows, he could write."

"I had a double curse when it came to David," said Doug Teper, a former legislator from DeKalb County. "The double curse was being a drinking partner and having been an elected official at the same time with David, because David liked to aim his typewriter at elected officials, especially one he could sit and drink with, and let him know exactly what I was doing wrong - every Tuesday night for many years here at Manuel's."

"He could write," said Zell Miller, who may have understood Nordan better than anyone else. "He could spin words. He did that well."

© 2007 by Capitolimpact.com

Great News: Iran to Attend Regional Talks on Iraq Violence

From The New York Times:

The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran announced Sunday that it would attend a regional conference on Iraq later this week, setting the stage for the first cabinet-level meeting between Iran and the United States since the end of 2004.

The regional meeting . . . is expected to draw the foreign ministers from Iraq’s neighbors, including Syria, as well as Egypt, Bahrain and the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Many of those attending represent Sunni Muslim governments that worry that Iran and Iraq, which are both dominated by Shiite Muslims, represent a growing threat to regional stability and their own power.

We all recall that meeting with Iran and Syria was one of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton that President Bush so far has refused to do. Maybe some good will come out of diplomacy.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

He has a resume that trumps every other candidate in the Democratic field. So why isn't Bill Richardson doing better?

From TIME:

He has a resume that trumps every other candidate in the 2008 Democratic field: Governor, U.N. Ambassador, Congressman, cabinet secretary. He has rescued hostages and negotiated with some of the toughest characters on the planet. So it seemed fair to ask: Why isn’t New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson doing any better in the presidential race? “We’ve become a celebrity culture,” he told me, “not that I’m complaining about that…”

Richardson . . . is by many measures the most conservative Democrat running. At the debate, moderator Brian Williams of NBC noted that Richarardson had the highest rating of any candidate from either party from the National Rifle Association. “I’m a Westerner,” Richardson said. “I’m a Governor of New Mexico. The Second Amendment is precious in the West.” But the Governor acknowledges that the best he can hope for in South Carolina is to come in third. “I need to be in the top three,” he says. “You’ve got to be realistic.”

[O]n paper, the candidates who have been relegated to the “second tier” look better than the front runners.

[What the top three -- Clinton, Obama and Edwards --] do have, as Richardson said, is fame. And with celebrity come endorsements and money. All three matter more than ever in an election season where the big states are moving their primaries to early February.

Richardson still insists the race is winnable for him. “I’m moving away from the second tier to the first tier,” he says, and pauses for comic effect, “slowly, quietly.” But he insists that he has time, and notes that both John Kerry and Bill Clinton were late bloomers in their primaries, too. “It’s 10 months away,” he says. “I want to break through Jan. 1. I don’t want to peak right now. I want to peak when Bill Clinton and John Kerry peaked.”

A January 2007 prediction by the Dean of Ga. Politics is proving to be true: "The election of Kidd seems to point to better days for Democrats."

A 12-20-04 post that discussed the Democratic Party of Georgia's first meeting following the November 2, 2004 election concluded with the following from the Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton:

"Fight on, my men," says Sir Andrew Barton,
"I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I'll lay me down and bleed a while,
And then I'll rise and fight again."

This past Saturday in Macon the Democratic Party of Georgia had its first meeting following the January election of Jane Kidd as its Chair. Without question all in attendance at the standing room only crowd felt the bleeding had ceased, and all were ready to rise and fight again.

While some of this optimism was expected given the GOP's role in the just-adjourned disastrous legislative session, most of it emanated from the party's obvious confidence in the leadership of our new Chair.

Chair Jane Kidd reported that day by day, week by week, the party was gradually returning to a stable financial condition. But she also cautioned that if we are to be the strong, unified party that we want to be, we must cease being fractured and divided among ourselves, wallowing in petty disagreements and not putting party ahead of personality.

This is wise counsel, and I am confident that with Jane at the helm, we can change our party's reputation as reported by Tom Crawford in a 2-11-07 post:

"Running the Democratic Party of Georgia isn’t necessarily the hardest job in the world, but it comes close, as Jane Kidd will soon discover. As the newly-elected chair of the state Democratic Party, Kidd has the unenviable job of bringing order to a party that is famous for its divisiveness and its inability to get everybody to agree on even the simplest task. It’s been said that chairing a group of Democrats is like trying to herd cats; in the case of Georgia Democrats, it’s like trying to herd a pack of angry mountain lions ready to tear you to shreds at the first opportunity."

As all in attendance on Saturday will agree, Jane is up to the task. She shared with us how on days when she is not making her daily Athens-to-Atlanta commute, she and her staff are traveling the State to both our cities and rural areas to raise funds and rebuild the party and work toward assuring that every county has a grass-roots Democratic presence, and in the process working to revitalize those Democratic organizations that have languished over the past several years and even disappeared in some counties.

Jim Galloway did a splendid job writing about on our party Chair that was the subject of a 3-9-07 post. In his article he notes:

"Kidd, by trade a public relations consultant, wants a kinder-but-still-firm face for the party, the better to appeal to independents."

Jane Kidd is off to a great start, and as noted by Bill Shipp in a 1-31-07 post:

"The election of Kidd seems to point to better days for Democrats."

In addition to the Chair, other party officials and workhorses in attendance who contributed to making Saturday a great day for the party included Rep. Calvin Smyre ("In politics, when you see a good fight, get out of the way"), Parliamentarian Chuck Byrd and Counsel Michael Jablonski.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Headline: "CIA Held Qaeda Leader in Secret Jail for Months" -- Our reaction, rather than "Oh My God No!" needs to be, "Keep up the good work fellows."

From The New York Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency held a captured Qaeda leader in a secret prison since last fall and transferred him last week to the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, officials said Friday.

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, an Iraqi Kurd who is said to have joined Al Qaeda in the late 1990s and ascended to become a top aide to Osama bin Laden, is the first terrorism suspect known to have been held in secret C.I.A. jails since President Bush announced the transfer of 14 captives to Guantánamo Bay last September.

One fear of middle America is that our party is weak on national defense. Regardless of all the damage that George W. Bush and Cheney have done to our country in the past six years, this is still America, the greatest country in the world. And the C.I.A., despite the George Tenet years, has done one hell of a lot more good than harm.

Thus our party and our party leaders need to show confidence in our country's institutions, give such institutions the benefit of the doubt that they do know their mission and what they are about, and not automatically fall for the initial temptation to criticize, thinking it will be politically expedient to do so. Dividends will follow.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ex-C.I.A. Chief, in Book, Assails Cheney on Iraq

From The New York Times:

George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, has lashed out against Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials in a new book, saying they pushed the country to war in Iraq without ever conducting a “serious debate” about whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States.

“At the Center of the Storm” . . . is the first detailed account by a member of the president’s inner circle of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the decision to invade Iraq and the failure to find the unconventional weapons that were a major justification for the war.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It’s Hard To Find Heroes -- Sen. Jeff Chapman & this session's Jekyll Island legislation.

Tom Crawford writes:

It would be hard to find any real heroes in Georgia politics these days. I’m talking about the kind of political figures who have the guts to stand up to the powerful interests and do something that is morally right, something that truly benefits the people. . . . If you try to do something courageous in politics in this state, you’ll just get your head handed to you.

If there was any heroic figure in the legislative session that just adjourned, it would be Jeff Chapman, a gangly, balding, second-term senator from Brunswick. He stood up to a group of powerful, wealthy business interests over the fate of Jekyll Island. . . . Some of the barrier island’s hotel and recreational facilities have been looking a little seedy lately, and most would agree that there is a need to revitalize these areas.

The battle for Jekyll, however, is really over the south end of the island, which is still under-developed and provides a nesting spot for sea turtles. Developers want to take the south end and build things like a resort hotel that would cater to the state’s more affluent citizens. The vehicle for new development at Jekyll was the bill HB 214, which passed the House without much trouble and appeared headed for victory in the Senate as well.

Southeast Land Co. retained an army of well-connected lobbyists like Joe Tanner, the former natural resources commissioner, and former lawmakers Arthur "Skin" Edge and Boyd Pettit to move the bill forward. During one of the committee hearings on HB 214, Tanner confided he was also monitoring the legislation on behalf of Gov. Sonny Perdue. Southeast Land Co. is a business venture of Mercer Reynolds, who developed the Reynolds Plantation resort area in Greene County and is one of the most influential figures in GOP politics today. Reynolds was a top fundraiser for George W. Bush and once told a reporter that he had flown on Air Force One “more times than I can count.” He was formerly Bush’s ambassador to Switzerland.

If you’re an ambitious Republican in the General Assembly, your natural instinct would be to support these party stalwarts in their development efforts. Chapman took the opposite path. He worked with environmental lobbyists as well as with Democratic lawmakers who wanted to save Jekyll and came within one vote in committee of adding an environmental protection amendment to HB 214.

“The south end of Jekyll is something we shouldn’t even be negotiating,” Chapman said when he presented his amendment during floor debate. His argument carried the day: the amendment to prohibit development passed by more than a two-to-one margin. The last hurdle was getting the House to agree with Chapman’s changes to the bill. HB 214 went to a conference committee that is usually limited to three senators and three representatives. In these negotiating sessions, however, the developers’ lobbyists also sat in as the fate of the bill was determined. Chapman refused to give in, and by the time the Legislature adjourned on Friday night, the House and Senate had agreed to a Jekyll bill that will keep developers away from the south end. . . . Chapman emerged as perhaps the only real hero of this legislative session. He will probably pay a price for doing so. Many of his Republicans colleagues despise him for daring to oppose the developers, and Perdue was making snide remarks about Chapman as the last day of the legislative session neared an end. But Chapman never gave in to the big money interests. If Jekyll Island still has sea turtles nesting on its south end 10 or 20 years from now, and you’re able to take the family there and stay at a reasonably priced hotel, you’ll be able to thank Jeff Chapman.

Something's got to give. Unfortunately, what's giving way right now is the national interest.

David Ignatius writes in The Washington Post:

Something's got to give. That's the sense around Washington this week as the news from Baghdad worsens and the president defiantly continues an Iraq policy that many military leaders question. Unfortunately, what's giving way right now is the national interest. Bush is hunkered down with his troop surge strategy, and the military is expected to pay the price. A grim example of that human cost was Monday's deaths of nine U.S. soldiers from car bombs that hit one of the vulnerable forward operating bases that are a key part of the surge strategy.

Retired Marine Gen. John Sheehan summed up the military's skepticism in explaining why he turned down White House feelers to become "war czar" for Iraq and Afghanistan: "The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going."

Also from The Washington Post:

[Retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander, in connection with making the above statement,] said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,' " he said.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Democrats Craft New Tax Rules, New Image -- Plan Tries to Shield Middle Class From Paying High Rates

From The Washington Post:

House Democrats, aiming to seize taxes from Republicans as a political issue, have come up with a plan to shift the burden of the hated alternative minimum tax onto the shoulders of the nation's richest households.

The proposal, still in its preliminary stages, would attempt to restore the original purpose of the parallel tax structure, which was created in 1969 to nab 155 super-rich tax filers who were using loopholes and deductions to wipe out their tax bills.

Because it was not indexed for inflation, the AMT delivered a significant tax increase to an estimated 3 percent of households this year. Unless the law is changed, it is projected to strike nearly 20 percent of taxpayers when they file returns next spring, many earning as little as $50,000 a year.

House Democrats are trying to craft legislation that would spare those households while providing relief to many current AMT payers. Under a proposal presented last week to Democrats on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, families making less than $250,000 a year -- about 98 percent of taxpayers -- would be exempt from the tax. Those earning between $250,000 and about $500,000 would see lower AMT bills, according to Democratic sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan is not final.

To make up the lost revenue, families earning more than $500,000 a year would take a much harder hit from the AMT, as well as other adjustments to the tax code, the sources said. Democrats haven't finalized that part of the proposal.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"What, me worry?" -- "If they want me to be more involved, I will be," says Gov. Perdue after vetoing the midyear budget.

As I noted in an April 11 post, the $142 million property tax rebate for Georgia homeowners was technically an appropriation, and as such, the governor had the power of the line-item veto.

That post goes on to say that if this rebate is included in the midyear budget -- which of course it was -- I hoped the governor would veto it.

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the governor had done this rather than vetoing the whole budget bill. The midyear budget would not have been perfect by a long shot, but what should the governor have expected when he had had so little input and involvement during the current legislative session, unlike past sessions.

After his State of the State address, we rarely heard from him until the very end when the tax rebate idea was floated. And even then, had he let Speaker Richardson know that he definitely would veto the midyear budget if the rebate were included -- rather than just strongly hinting it -- things might have turned out differently.

Regardless, back to the issue of what might have happened if the governor had just line-item vetoed the $142 million rebate rather than the whole budget bill. In such a case, I think the governor would have delivered the budget to the House prior to adjournment, and even if the House had voted to override the veto, I think it is possible that the lieutenant governor would have allowed a vote on whether to sustain the veto, and in such case, the veto may well have stuck.

Jim Wooten: If Republicans were dedicated to giving voters reason to throw them out of office, they succeeded in this year’s legislative session.

Jim Wooten in today's AJC writes:

GOP’s bizarre budget flop goes down in history

If Republicans were dedicated to giving voters reason to throw them out of office, they succeed marvelously in this year’s legislative session.

Even granting newcomers a learning curve, this session of the Georgia General Assembly will go down as one of the most bizarre in modern times. It was, to borrow a lobbyist’s phrase, “chaos in search of frenzy.” There were no winners — except, perhaps, Democrats who as the minority party are achieving something that has eluded them for the past decade or more. That remarkable achievement is either the imposed or the self-regulated silencing of the fringe rhetoric that made the Georgia party indistinguishable from its national leadership.

To their credit, they’ve largely kept their mouths shut when they should, appeared reasonable when necessary, and have generally avoided missteps.

So we have here two budgets, one the supplemental for the current year and another a $20.2 billion budget for next year that involves spending $1.6 billion more. Neither is austere. Neither, with the exception of a tax rebate, would represent any important distinction between this party and the last one in power. And even the property tax rebates, while symbolically important, come with new borrowings — meaning, of course, that cash out is replaced by debt.

Who won this year? Nobody, except perhaps the not-seen and not-heard Democrats.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"What we have here is a failure to communicate." It is more than just a failure; it is an unwillingness on the part of the Speaker.

In a 4-1-07 post I wrote that in this year's session of the General Assembly, "Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has emerged as a big winner and House Speaker Glenn Richardson has not fared too well."

Given the current budget confrontation between the Governor and the Speaker, I think it is safe to predict that things are not going to improve for Richardson, regardless of whether the Governor vetoes the midyear budget with its $142 million tax cut and whether he can muster the votes to sustain his veto. Because of the way things have been handled, Richardson is going to be perceived as a loser in the court of public opinion.

Supreme Court Ruling Catapults Abortion Back Into ’08 Race.

From The New York Times:

Both sides in the abortion struggle predicted that the Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday would escalate the drive for new abortion restrictions in state legislatures and push the issue of abortion rights — and the Supreme Court — squarely into the 2008 presidential election.

The decision was a major victory for social conservatives, a validation of their decade-long strategy of pushing for step-by-step restrictions on abortion while working to change the composition of the Supreme Court.

The reaction among independent and moderate voters will be closely watched.

Until now, even some elected officials who supported abortion rights were uncomfortable dealing with the procedure singled out in the 2003 law. Abortion opponents considered the legislation a valuable teaching tool to highlight what they asserted was the extraordinary reach of the Roe decision. On final passage in the Senate in 2003, 17 Democrats joined with 47 Republicans to support the ban.

But some Democrats said this new court decision could change the political landscape, just as the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case did, by striking moderates as an unwarranted government intrusion into medical decisions.

The Supreme Court's reversal of course on abortion by upholding Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act promises to reframe the abortion debate.

From The New York Times:

The decision, the first in which the court has upheld a ban on a specific method of abortion, means that doctors who perform the prohibited procedure may face criminal prosecution, fines and up to two years in prison.

The banned procedure, known medically as “intact dilation and extraction,” involves removing the fetus in an intact condition rather than dismembering it in the uterus. Both methods are used to terminate pregnancies beginning at about 12 weeks, after the fetus has grown too big to be removed by the suction method commonly used in the first trimester, when 85 percent to 90 percent of all abortions take place.

While the ruling will thus have a direct impact on only a relatively small subset of abortion practice, the decision has broader implications for abortion regulations generally, indicating a change in the court’s balancing of the various interests involved in the abortion debate.

By identifying the intact procedure and giving it the provocative label “partial-birth abortion,” the movement turned the public focus of the abortion debate from the rights of women to the fate of fetuses. In short order, 30 states banned the procedure.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Advice to Democratic candidates: Virginia Tech notwithstanding, don't be tempted to take on the NRA.

The following appears in today's Wall Street Journal Online:

The policy issue bound to gain traction following the Virginia Tech shootings is gun control, especially in light of Virginia's scant restrictions on handgun purchases and gun licenses. But new federal gun-control laws are unlikely to be enacted, considering the Bush administration's steadfast opposition to such measures and the ambiguous positions held by some Democrats.

As we prepare for the 10th Congressional District race and 2008, I hope Democratic candidates resist the urge to take on the gun lobby in light of yesterday's tragic event at Virginia Tech.

When it comes to elections, the NRA tends to get its way.

In his book released in 2004 In My Life, former President Clinton wrote that the 1994 vote to ban assault weapons came at a high political price, costing many House Democrats their seats in Congress and being a major contributing factor in the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.

We all recall Sen. John Kerry’s humorous campaign arranged photo opportunities of the presidential candidate hunting during his 2004 race. Democrats said the Kerry campaign believed Al Gore made a huge tactical error by repeatedly talking about gun control during the 2000 campaign for the White House.

Despite polls showing the majority of Americans favor gun control, such national surveys don't reflect the issue's political volatility and the depth of feelings about it. Whether is is logical or not, voters in rural and conservative districts seem to not want any type of gun restrictions period.

One day the political winds will shift. Despite the NRA getting its arrogant tail kicked in Atlanta this legislative session, that day is not now.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rep. Jim Marshall throws his support behind Sen. John Edwards

From The Macon Telegraph:

Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga.: "I think Senator Edwards has an excellent chance of being the next president of the United States."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tom Crawford: Vernon Jones is the worst possible Democratic candidate to run for the U.S. Senate in 2008.

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact, never one to mince words, writes:

I never thought Georgia’s Democrats could do worse than they did in fielding candidates for top-of-the-ticket races in the last two election cycles. You had Denise Majette giving up a safe seat in Congress to run for the Senate in 2004 because, she said, God told her to. Majette must have had a bad connection, because she pulled 40 percent of the vote in her landslide loss to Johnny Isakson. Then there was Mark Taylor, who ran possibly the dumbest statewide campaign ever seen in these parts in the 2006 governor’s race. He drew a whopping 38 percent of the vote against Sonny Perdue. Can Democrats stoop any lower to find a weaker candidate for the premier statewide race of 2008, the challenge to first-term Sen. Saxby Chambliss?

Yes they can, and that person is Vernon Jones, the dapper CEO of the DeKalb County Commission who unofficially launched his campaign for the Senate last week. Jones is a presentable candidate who dresses in expensive designer suits and takes a moderate stance on most of the issues. True, he’s an African-American politician in a conservative, white-dominated state, but Georgians have shown they will vote for black candidates like Mike Thurmond and Thurbert Baker. Jones has some problems, however, as could be seen outside the front door of the DeKalb County bar where he made his kickoff speech. A small group of protestors held up signs calling for an investigation of an old rape charge against Jones and handed out a thick stack of police reports detailing some of the past allegations against him.

You don’t need to read through the reports to know that Jones is a man with personal issues that will hang over any campaign he runs. As has been well reported in the media, Jones has been accused of pointing a pistol at a woman and of physically shoving a female county commissioner. DeKalb police looked into a complaint filed by a Lithonia woman who said Jones sexually assaulted her when she visited his home in December 2004 (the investigation was dropped when the district attorney said Jones’ accuser “wanted to avoid further trauma to herself and her family”).

And we haven’t even started talking about the federal lawsuit that accuses Jones of trying to force out white county employees so that he could replace them with a “darker administration” in DeKalb, or the hundreds of thousands of dollars he spent on a personal security force, or… well, you get the idea.

There were some Republican operatives at Jones’ kickoff, including a Chambliss aide, who laughed gleefully through much of the event. You can understand why they were enjoying it so much: if this is the best opponent Democrats have, Chambliss will cruise to reelection. Remember that Chambliss upset Democratic incumbent Max Cleland in 2002 after running a nasty TV spot that equated Cleland with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. If Chambliss would do that to a decorated military veteran who lost three limbs fighting for his country, imagine what he’d do to an opponent who’s been accused of rape, ethnic cleansing, and violence against women. The attack ads write themselves.

The Democratic Party is in bad shape right now as a new chairwoman, Jane Kidd, tries to rebuild it as a viable political organization. But even in its current condition, the party can do better than this. Macon Congressman Jim Marshall, a Democrat so conservative that even Zell Miller hasn’t turned on him, would be a worthy opponent for Chambliss. Jim Butler, a successful Columbus trial lawyer and a committed environmentalist, would have the financial resources to mount a credible campaign as well. They might even be capable of drawing more than 40 percent of the vote, which would be a refreshing change for the party. The concern, however, is that the presence of Jones in the race will discourage other candidates because of Jones’ support among black voters who make up an increasingly larger percentage of the Democratic Party’s base.

This is the real test for Jane Kidd and her colleagues. If Democrats allow someone with Jones’ shabby background to scare off any other credible candidate in the most important statewide race on the ballot, they have lost the right to be taken seriously as a political party.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Rep. Jim Marshall: "It’s pennywise and pound foolish for us to be short on [PeachCare]. This program saves us money in the long run.”

From the AJC's Political Insider:

[Today] U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall of Macon, a conservative Democrat, [while addressing] members of the House [and thus in] front of Speaker Glenn Richardson, who has proposed new limits on the reach of PeachCare, . . . said Georgia should be expanding — not contracting — the reach of the health insurance program of the children of the working poor.

This year, Marshall said, PeachCare “will be funded at least as well as its funded now, and it’s quite likely that it’s going to receive even more funding.

“There’ll be all kind of initiatives to expand the program, all kinds of different ideas for expanding the children’s health insurance program,” he said. “And I think Georgia needs to be in synch with that.”

Georgia, said Marshall . . . “could potentially lead the nation in coming up with different ways of trying to get more and more of these kids from poor families insured. It’s pennywise and pound foolish for us to be short on this program. This program saves us money in the long run.”

The tax rebate is an appropriation, and the Gov. has the power of the line-item veto. -- I say veto it.

The AJC's Political Insider, writing about the compromise in the House and Senate negotiations over the midyear budget that proposes $142 million in property tax rebates for Georgia homeowners, notes:

By the way, a property tax rebate is technically an appropriation. And the governor does have the power of the line-item veto to erase it, if he so chooses.

If the House and Senate include this in the mid-year budget, I say veto the dern thing.

10th Congressional District Democratic Candidate James Marlow has his message right -- Part II

In an April 2, 2007 post entitled "10th Congressional District Democratic Candidate James Marlow has his message right on Iraq," I quoted from Mr. Marlow's web site as reported by the AJC's Political Insider as follows:

"I will work everyday to bring our involvement in Iraq to an honorable end as quickly as we can, while also protecting our national interests in the region and the world.

"I support the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. We must establish clear goals for our military involvement in Iraq.”

Today Grayson has a post entitled "Meet James Marlow." Mr. Marlow does indeed have his message right, and it is not just about Iraq. As Grayson comments, James Marlow is just the kind of Democrat we need to see more of in Georgia . . . the kind that will bring back those straying Republicans!

Click below to see and hear Mr. Marlow.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It surely won't be long before the Republican National Committee incorporates Pelosi's new look into a commercial.

Eleanor Clift writes in Newsweek:

Nancy Pelosi donned a beautiful headscarf as she visited a mosque during a visit to Syria, signaling her respect for Islamic culture. In so doing, she also kicked off a debate here at home about whether the House Speaker did the right thing in bowing to a custom that to Western women symbolizes oppression.

It surely won't be long before the Republican National Committee incorporates Pelosi's new look into a commercial.

Matt Towery hits another home run. Tom Baxter to become editor of the Southern Political Report.

In an April 2 post entitled "We're going to miss you Tom. You are one of the best of the best, and are going to be a hard act to follow. Best of luck whatever you do," I wrote that "the AJC's loss will be someone else's gain."

Well, that someone turns out to be Matt Towery and Company at InsiderAdvantage / Internet News Agency. Effective July 1, Tom will become senior vice president and editor of the Southern Political Report.

This is a Matt Towery's second big score in as many years with respect to esteemed Georgia reporters and members of the press. Last year Dick Pettys was named as editor of InsiderAdvantage Georgia after a distinguished 36-year career with The Associated Press. During that time Dick -- one knowledgeable guy on Georgia history and politics -- covered Georgia government and politics.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

In the presence of hostility, when asked what I think about him, I diffuse the situation by saying, hey, I like the guy. -- Jim Wooten to retire.

Another day, another casualty. Doug Monroe at Peachtree Screed writes that AJC's conservative political columnist and Editorial Board Member Jim Wooten is taking the AJC early retirement buyout offer.

In a prior post I wrote this about Jim Wooten:

[In the past] I have encountered some hostility toward Mr. Wooten. When asked how I “feel” about him, I diffuse the situation by saying, hey, I like the guy. He can’t help it if his perspective has changed over the years; his problem is that he has just forgotten where he came from.

Mr. Wooten is from Eastman, Dodge County, a pleasant City in the heart of South Georgia where I had the pleasure of spending a summer years ago as Youth Campaign Manager for the successful U.S. Congressional race of Bill Stuckey -- yep, that one, Stephanie’s father, and that summer Stephanie was a newborn, and yes, I may have changed her diapers a time or two.

I have heard that if you stay in Washington too long, you change. Maybe the same thing happens Jim if you live in Atlanta too long.

For those of you who use Mr. Wooten's name in vain when writing about him on the web, know this. We might differ in our politics, but I know him to be a man who does not mind saying how he feels and what is on his mind. I respect and appreciate this about anyone. His political feelings and philosophy, although different from my own, are sincere.

And in one area I grant him complete latitude -- military service. He has been there and done that -- including serving his country in Vietnam -- and you will never find me questioning his convictions or character. I respect his right to write about such, including the service of others.

Monday, April 02, 2007

We're going to miss you Tom. You are one of the best of the best, and are going to be a hard act to follow. Best of luck whatever you do.

Doug Monroe at Peachtree Screed confirms what I was afraid would happen. Tom Baxter of AJC's Political Insider is taking the AJC early retirement buyout offer.

The veteran Atlanta Journal-Constitution Political Correspondent has been a reporter, Sunday perspective editor and national editor at the AJC. Since 1987 he has written about politics in Georgia, the South and the nation.

To say we will miss him is an understatement. Tom is a pro, and I know the AJC's loss will be someone else's gain.

10th Congressional District Democratic Candidate James Marlow has his message right on Iraq.

From Mr. Marlow's web site as reported by the AJC's Political Insider:

"I will work everyday to bring our involvement in Iraq to an honorable end as quickly as we can, while also protecting our national interests in the region and the world.

"I support the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. We must establish clear goals for our military involvement in Iraq.”

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Tale of Two Leaders, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagel and House Speaker Glenn Richardson.

As this year's session of the General Assembly is winding down and we reflect on how Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has emerged as a big winner and House Speaker Glenn Richardson has not fared too well, let's not forget the tone in the House and among GOP legislators that Rep. Richardson set during the first week of the General Assembly as reported by Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact in Georgia Trend:

During the first week of the General Assembly, House Speaker Glenn Richardson reminded everyone that the speaker has a lot of power to hurt people. Richardson and the House leadership came down especially hard on Rep. Mack Crawford (R-Concord), a moderate Republican from West Georgia. Crawford chaired the Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on judicial agencies last session, but was stripped of the chairmanship and evicted from his second floor capitol office (whereupon he was banished to new digs in the Legislative Office Building across the street). Crawford’s transgression? He didn’t pay the monetary assessment to Richardson’s political fund that is expected of each committee chairman – a sum of $70,000.

Bill Shipp gives some percentage bets (1) about Atlanta's next mayor & (2) on likelihood of a serious Democratic challenger to Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

Bill Shipp gives his percentage bets on the likelihood that:

• Because of changing demographics, the next mayor of Atlanta will be white (55 percent).

• Congressman Jim Marshall, D-Macon, will not run for the Senate next year (90 percent*). In fact, the candidacy of DeKalb County CEO Vernon "No Chance" Jones will prevent any serious Democratic challenge to incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss (85 percent).

* Some disagree with the Dean on this call primarily because they see Rep. Marshall's seat becoming riskier, not safer, over the next few years. This is because the next census will probably really mess him up, sending him north of Macon, and cutting out the southern portion of the 8th Congressional District. This notwithstanding, I agree with the Dean on this call except that I give the likelihood of Rep. Marshall not challenging Sen. Chambliss 100%.