Let the battle begin: Even on Aug. 2 when Obama comes to Atlanta, Barnes will be in Middle and South Georgia (the Other Georgia). We love him here!!
Curtis Farrar, John Ellington, Sid Cottingham, Wyc Orr and Chuck Byrd in Enigma on Saturday where a good time was had by each (and there were many eaches) and everyone. Photo by Amy Morton
Jim Galloway of ajc's the Political Insider had a Saturday post entitled "Roy Barnes bets his campaign on rural Georgia."
Based on the size and enthusiasm of the turnout in Enigma -- the home of Bobby Rowan, a former state senator and former member of the Public Service Commission -- at a 12-county rally yesterday, you would have thought the bet was won and it was time to call the dogs in, put out the fire and go home.
What a great day in South Georgia!
And Darryl Hicks, it was great getting to meet you in person. Good luck on your race for State Labor Commissioner.
When our Yankee friends used to come into Atlanta they were welcomed (some might take issue with the word welcomed when speaking of Yankees) or at least greeted with the initials and call sign of WSB radio station on a towering radio mast atop the Biltmore, the call sign for WSB standing for "Welcome South, Brother."
No towering signs were needed in Enigma for Roy on Saturday. There was an undeniable feeling shared by all of welcome to South Georgia Brother Roy, we love you and Godspeed.
Now back to Jim Galloway's article:
Last Tuesday night, for the third time, Roy Barnes won the Democratic nomination for governor.
Barnes thanked his supporters, complimented his defeated opponents, and condemned Republicans who “gave tax breaks to special interests and then had to lay off teachers and shorten the school year to cover up their mistakes.”
And then he dropped off the face of metro Atlanta.
Not even an Aug. 2 visit to Atlanta by President Barack Obama will bring Barnes back. “He’s going to be in Middle and South Georgia,” campaign manager Chris Carpenter said Saturday.
Barnes has bet his campaign on rural Georgia — the one that turned its back on him in 2002 for his removal of the Confederate battle emblem from its place on the state flag.
“Roy Barnes told me about six months ago that if he wins this election he’ll have to win it south of Macon,” said Bobby Rowan, a former state senator and former member of the Public Service Commission.
On Saturday, Rowan was one of the organizers of a 12-county rally featuring Barnes, held in the little town of Enigma, just east of Tifton.
“We’ve got some little girls that’s wearing T-shirts that say ‘Barnes chicks.’ They’re going to pass out 1,500 of these ol’ church fans,” Rowan said. “The last time something like this was had down in South Georgia was when Carl Sanders took on Marvin Griffin. That was 1962.”
[That race is summarized in a 9-16-04 Cracker Squire post that noted: "In 1962 Carl Sanders defeated Marvin Griffin for governor in the last of the great campaigns in which candidates held large rallies and barbecues. After the election Griffin said, "Everybody that ate my barbecue I don't believe voted for me."]
But Rowan, known for his poetic drawl and populist style, was exaggerating. The last time we saw a gubernatorial campaign like this was in 2002.
A Democrat-turned-Republican state senator named Sonny Perdue picked out 70 counties in rural Georgia that, four years earlier, had voted for both Barnes and U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell, a Republican.
While the Roy Barnes of 2002 worked from Atlanta and hardly ever shed his business suit, each Friday night would see Perdue on the sidelines of several South Georgia high school football games, shaking hands and slapping backs.
Those rural swing counties and a promise to put the 1956 state flag and its Confederate battle emblem up for a statewide vote formed the core of the effort that made Perdue the first Republican governor in 130 years.
Carpenter, the Barnes campaign manager, acknowledged strategic similarities between the Perdue campaign of 2002 and the Barnes campaign of 2010. “We’ve taken our campaign all across the state. Roy’s been to over 90 counties,” he said.
In last week’s balloting, Republican voters cast twice as many ballots as Democrats. But the Barnes campaign doesn’t believe the GOP grasp on rural Georgia is as strong as many think.
Carpenter is a great believer in maps. One of those on the wall of the campaign manager’s Marietta office shows the Georgia counties with Democratic sheriffs — 108 of 159.
The majority of these Democratic sheriffs work below the gnat line.
While it has a Republican sheriff, Berrien County — home to Enigma — is one of those counties that voted for Barnes in 1998, then swung to Perdue in 2002.
Rowan thinks his county is ready to swing again.
Neither Nathan Deal nor Karen Handel, the two Republicans left in the race for governor, has paid Berrien County a visit. Eric Johnson of Savannah won the Republican side of the primary in Berrien, followed by John Oxendine.
Rowan doesn’t think party labels will matter in November.
“We frankly don’t care anymore,” he said. “Partisan politics has passed us. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Roy Barnes could roll up a 60 to 70 percent win in our county.”
Margins of that size, reached in multiple rural counties, could offset balloting from the Republican-dominated counties of metro Atlanta. A heavy turnout for Barnes in rural Georgia would essentially crack the super-majority of white voters required for statewide GOP victories.
Rowan said the Confederate enthusiasts who dogged Barnes throughout the 2002 campaign are no longer a concern. “Sonny promised them a vote. They know they ain’t never getting a vote,” Rowan said.
But it is the economy of South Georgia that has leveled the playing field, the former legislator said.
“This whole election, it ain’t about a $3 tag, it ain’t about a chicken in every pot. It’s about a job for every man that’ll work. That’s the issue,” Rowan said.
He told of an unemployed friend who’d recently confessed that, while his neighbors thought him prosperous, he was about to lose his house.
“That man is not Republican or Democrat. He’s a human being,” Rowan said. “But if you make him a promise, and he believes you might can help him, that’s where his vote’s going.
“He won’t even slow down to think about Republicans or Democrats. It’s too late for that,” Rowan said.