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Shipp: Georgia needs fresh blood, ideas

POSTED: January 28, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Let's face reality. Georgia needs a federal bailout. The Peach State is in worse shape than Chrysler and Bank of America put together. President Barack Obama's stimulus package has earmarked about $5.6 billion to help Georgia.

That is not nearly enough. We need some serious money. President George W. Bush approved almost a trillion dollars to rescue Wall Street banks with few strings attached. One bank installed a new executive bathroom with part of the money; others bought out less fortunate banks. You and I were left holding the IOUs.

Georgia's list of needs stretches from highways to water conservation to schools to health care and so forth. You name it. Georgia needs it. Mostly we need to stem the rise of unemployment and reverse the real estate foreclosure rate. We need to return to prosperity road.

Of course, several Republicans in our congressional delegation are dead set against the stimulus package. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, warns that the Washington bailout is "left-leaning" and includes aid for too many social programs.

Many Georgia congressmen opposing the help are key members of the National Crackpot Caucus. It is understandable that they would be against the stimulus. They want to protect their caucus positions and reassure their anticommunist base back home. Never mind that Georgia is rapidly turning into Mississippi east, and that communism is no longer a problem, except in New Haven, Conn.

Not to worry though. Help may be on the way at last. In the recent election, Obama came within 5 percentage points of winning Georgia as he took a hefty chunk of white votes. Our population continues to grow with younger and better-educated people, many of them brown and black.

Even more encouraging is the number of potential star politicians emerging from the guano piles in the Georgia House and Senate.

Here's a who's who sample of comers that is by no means complete:

Rep. Rob Teilhet, D-Smyrna, bought television time to assail state School Superintendent Kathy Cox for wasting time on a Hollywood game show when she should have been tending to our schools. Kathy won $1 million for the schools, and Teilhet made a name for himself. He is expanding his Internet tactics for future campaigns.

Look for Teilhet (pronounced Tel-lay) to run for statewide office once the field becomes clearer. He would benefit from having fellow Cobb Countian Roy Barnes at the top of the ticket.

State Rep. Jan Jones, R-North Fulton, has been elected House GOP whip after serving only two terms in the legislature. She easily defeated party-switcher Greg Morris, who had the backing of several powerful lobbyists. Jones is a kind of Karen Handel of the General Assembly. She appears to be on a fast track to higher office.

Rep. Stacey Abrams, D-Decatur, is a Yale law school graduate and author of a series of suspense novels. Writing under the name Selena Montgomery, she has a multibook contract with Harper Collins. In the Gold Dome, she is noted for her fundraising and organizational abilities. Look for her to try soon for a seat in Congress or as mayor of Atlanta.

Rep. Margaret Kaiser, D-Atlanta, defeated longtime incumbent Doug Dean. This sophomore legislator operates a successful pizza company with her husband. In the House she has received plum committee assignments and earned a good reputation for working with Republicans. She has carved out a niche as a champion of charter schools.

Notice that the above Gold Dome up-and-comers are from the Atlanta area. To be sure, many others hail from outside the metro shadow. However, the 2011 redistricting plan will result in a further shift of voting strength to metro Atlanta as well as to other urban-suburban areas. Republicans will draw more strength from the exurban and old rural precincts.

While established elephants Sonny Perdue, Casey Cagle and Glenn Richardson play petty games with our serious problems, the new stars are making quiet but meaningful inroads on political and policy levels.

Most of the smart newbies recognize that railing against a federal life jacket in the midst of a raging economic storm is not likely to draw many new supporters in the New Georgia.

Bill Shipp's column on Georgia politics appears Wednesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can contact him at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30160; Web site.



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