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Oglesby: Thoughts on GOP snub, school chief, Nunn

POSTED: August 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Were it not for the legions of Democrats who recognized their party had left them, Republicans here wouldn’t have the majority they now enjoy. That’s partly why a lot of people are disgusted with the GOP county executive committee publicly denouncing clerk of court candidate Bob Vass for voting in the Democratic presidential preference primary.

The other, perhaps major, part was that the instigator was a member of the executive committee and a paid consultant to an opposing candidate.

Count me similarly disgusted, but don’t get me wrong. I’ve long believed political parties ought to have the right to select their nominees as they see fit. If they do it by primary election, only party members ought to have the right to vote in that primary. The only way to do that is to require registration by party.

When voters choose not to belong to a party, they should forfeit a right to help nominate candidates. They always have the right to vote for whichever candidates they choose in the general election just as at that time Republicans can vote for some Democrats and vice versa.

Only trouble is, Georgia law lets voters choose whichever party’s primary ballot they want, regardless of party membership. They can choose a Democratic ballot one year and a GOP another year. It’s not unheard of when a candidate in one party is unopposed or has weak opposition for members of that party to vote instead in the other party’s primary and for the weakest candidate. To me, this is wrong, but entirely legal. Any correction must come from a change in state law.

It was fair for the consultant to let voters know one of the candidates had voted in another party’s primary, indicating support for Democrats Obama, Clinton, et al, rather than Republicans McCain, Huckabee, Romney, et al.

To ask the executive committee the week before the vote to denounce a defected Democrat the party had welcomed was detestable. Worse was the executive committee’s unanimous action. Party Chairman Paul Stanley is a good friend, but I fear he left his thinking cap home that day.

Full disclosure: I was GOP district chairman and on the state committee and state executive committee for a decade. I haven’t been an official party member since 1981.

I already had early voted when this happened. It wasn’t for Vass, a friend, because I felt the other two were better qualified for this office.

Now the promised conclusion I’ve reached regarding the firing of Gainesville schools Superintendent Steven Ballowe. Bottom Line: Overall, it probably was best in the long run given the point it had reached. A wide spread of blame for it reaching that point exists.

We elect people to act for us in our best interest according to the information they have. We understand they have more information than we do on many issues and also that sometimes the "wishes of the people" at a given moment may not be in our best interest. "Wishes" often are fueled by narrow, vocal interests. Notwithstanding them, elected officials have a responsibility to do what is felt in the best interest.

I have no doubt my friend, Sammy Smith, was hearing from very vocal interests among his supporters long opposed to Ballowe, so I dismissed his public explanation he was "doing what the people wanted." I voted for him to exercise his best judgment and must trust he did. He had more information than me.

When Ballowe learned of the fiscal problem, its making at several levels from state down, he began corrective action, making changes as a CEO should. He didn’t, however, maintain the confidence of the board, which had two new members whose elections were quietly supported by afterward vocal anti-Ballowe residents.

The final nail on the confidence coffin probably was his blunt assertion that there was no just cause to fire him; it would be discriminatory and it would cost the system (taxpayers). Without that, since he clearly was taking corrective action, he may have survived.

If the board had lost confidence, it could not work effectively with him. I think he’s right that he is entitled to the compensation he claims and will get it at our expense.

Another note: If former Sen. Sam Nunn, reportedly on Obama’s vice presidential short list and planning to be at the national convention, is selected, he’ll put Georgia and all the Deep South in play big time.

I just can’t see the compatibility of their demonstrated philosophies: Obama the most liberal Senate Democrat and Nunn a conservative Democrat.

One advantage for the country should the Democrats win: Obama would have a real-world experienced adult at his very inexperienced elbow.

Ted Oglesby is retired opinion page editor. You can reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. His column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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