It is 2011, but the 2012 election cycle has begun and Georgia Democrats must find a way to reclaim the Peach State in the face of multiple party defections to the Republicans.
Recently, the Democratic Party of Georgia had elected new leadership and the new chairman is Mike Berlon. The Gwinnett County native hasn’t wasted any time in stating the party’s objectives for 2012.
In a column with Insider Advantage he stated : …“We also need to put to rest the perception that we are solely a metro Atlanta party and reconnect with all of Georgia’s citizens. A crucial step in this process will be to establish satellite offices throughout the state. We need to rebuild our base at the county level, neighbor-by-neighbor, Democrat-by-Democrat, precinct-by-precinct…”
Berlon further states that … “for many years, we have been reactive instead of proactive and have simply lost our message…”
One prime example is former U.S. congressman from the Eighth Congressional District, Jim Marshall. The former mayor of the majority-African American city of Macon in the 1990’s became increasingly conservative during his tenure as an U.S. congressman and in essence tried to outdo the Republicans with conservative rhetoric in regard to fiscal policy and immigration.
It is a known fact that giving a refund to wealthiest 2 to 3 percent of Americans in regard to the Bush Tax cuts was a bad idea. Plus, it helped to turned a federal surplus left by President Bill Clinton in 2001 to a federal deficit by the middle of the last decade.
However, Marshall went along with voting for the Bush Tax Cuts in 2003 along with voting for two costly decade-long wars that weren’t paid for.
After President Barack Obama was elected, Marshall was one of the major opponents to the health care law which was passed in 2010.
Marshall wasn’t able to out-Republican Austin Scott in November 2010, and the former Macon mayor’s support eroded dramatically in Bibb County which opened the door for the freshman Republican to squeak out a five percentage point victory, 52 percent to 47 percent.
Austin Scott is a vulnerable Republican and is beatable if Macon and Warner Robins remain intact for 2012 after redistricting. Bibb County-Macon is still the largest population center of Scott’s district and if a strong candidate comes from Macon, Democrats have a realistic shot of winning the seat back.
Scott has rarely talked about Macon since his election win last November, but has mainly stated how he is going to help Robins Air Force Base. Additionally, he has recently opened an office in Warner Robins.
This is tactical error by Scott, but moving forward, we will see which congressional candidate emerges for a potential challenge against Austin Scott.
Berlon is correct to state that the Democrats need to rebuild our base at the county level and especially at the precinct level.
Macon and the Central Georgia area haven’t been immune from party defectors. One name comes to mind and his name is Bubber Epps of House District 140 .
Berlon had said party switchers engaged in ‘political deception’, and I have to agree.
Dry Branch native Bubber Epps kept his intentions quiet until after the elections.
“My major role is to position myself where I can best serve my constituents,” he said. “I have to be in the best position possible to bring back what can I can for the district.”
Time will tell whether he is truly serving his constituents or being self-serving in his abrupt switch.
He said the change won’t reflect a change in philosophy for him, saying in the past session, “I tended to vote with the leadership more so, I thought (Speaker David Ralston’s) agenda was the better one.”
Epps’ four county district includes parts of Bibb and Jones County and all of Twiggs and Wilkinson County.
Of course with redistricting, boundary lines are subjected to change. However, legal challenges could slow down the Republican-led redistricting process.
Despite Bibb County having the fewest voting precincts with three, it does have the largest precinct in House District 140 which is called the Rutland #1 precinct that has over 4,000 registered voters.
The Rutland #1 district is mostly a conservative district and had given John McCain over 70% of the vote in 2008. However, the most progressive precinct in Bibb County is the East Macon #6 precinct which has approximately 2,000 voters and over 70% had voted for President Barack Obama.
Twiggs County and Wilkinson County generally trend Democratic in most elections whether it is national or statewide.
Most candidates for this House District 140 race have come from Macon such as Allen Freeman and Lauren Benedict over the past few election cycles. It will be interesting to see if candidates for 2012 emerge from the majority-African-American cities of Jeffersonville in Twiggs County or Irwinton in WIlkinson County.