By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Crawford: Republicans complete takeover of Georgia government
Placeholder Image

I was doing a radio broadcast with some other journalists on election night as the returns came in, each set of numbers reinforcing the trend of a Republican sweep of elected offices in Georgia.

Nathan Deal crushing Roy Barnes in the governor's race. Casey Cagle trouncing Carol Porter for another term as lieutenant governor. Sam Olens, Brian Kemp, Gary Black and the other GOP nominees rolling to easy wins in their respective races.

One of my newspaper colleagues finally commented: "I think this is the official end of the Democratic Party in Georgia."

You couldn't dispute that statement. The process that started eight years ago when Sonny Perdue upset Barnes for governor has been completed. Control of state politics has been transferred from the Democrats to the Republicans.

For those of us who were around on election night in 1990, the change has been a dramatic one. There were 11 races for statewide office on the ballot that year. Democrats, headed by Zell Miller in the governor's race, won every one of those elections.

There were four Democrats running statewide — Secretary of State Max Cleland, Attorney General Mike Bowers, State School Superintendent Werner Rogers and Labor Commissioner Joe Tanner — who didn't have an opponent on the ballot.

Of the 10 races for Congress in 1990, nine were won by Democrats. Just one congressional seat was won by a Republican, Newt Gingrich, and even he was nearly upset by a young lawyer named David Worley.

The political pendulum has swung completely to the other side in the two decades since that election. I don't think we're going to see it swing again for a long time.

Three days after last week's election, state Rep. Alan Powell of Hartwell saw the futility of it.

Powell had been a lifelong Democrat and one of the last Democratic legislators left in North Georgia. He wrote and signed a letter on Friday to Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, chairman of the House Democratic caucus.

"Through the years of my legislative services, I have always tried to be an independent voice representing the views of my local citizens, and doing what is right for Georgia," Powell wrote. "After discussions with many of my constituents, it is my decision to resign from the House Democratic Caucus."

While he has always run for office as a Democrat, Powell is a nonpartisan legislator who has followed his own course of action in the General Assembly. He has been a stern critic of his fellow Democrats and an even harsher critic of the religious conservatives who wield such a strong influence on the Republican side of the aisle.

Powell doesn't know whether he will switch to the Republican Party or serve as an independent; he'll talk to the folks in his district and see what their preference is. But he has given up on the Democrats ever being a credible force in state politics again.

"The Democratic Party is dead," he told me after sending his letter to Smyre. "I don't see it coming back in our lifetime."

The voters have clearly spoken and the decision has been made. Georgia has made the transition from being a one-party state where the people in control were Democrats to a one-party state where the control is now held by Republicans.

I don't think that's a healthy situation, in the long run. Georgians would be better served by a competitive two-party system where the people out of power can keep an eye on the ones who are in control and blow the whistle if there's any funny business.

When one party holds all the power, there is simply too much temptation for graft and corruption. In the days of Democratic control, you had Gene Talmadge proclaiming, "Sure I stole — I stole for you."

In the days of Republican control, you have Sonny Perdue signing legislation that has been secretly amended to give himself a $100,000 tax exemption. Either alternative is bad for the taxpayers and a threat to clean government.

On the other hand, Georgia has effectively been a one-party state for more than 130 years. I guess it's something the voters want — and they are the ones who make the final decision on that.

Tom Crawford is the editor of The Georgia Report, an Internet news service at gareport.com that covers government and politics in Georgia. His column appears Wednesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.

 

Regional events