Bibb County likely to remain blue, while Houston County stays red

mstucka@macon.comNovember 7, 2012 

In Tuesday’s elections, Republicans hoping to be elected across Bibb County were thrashed. In Houston County, local Democrats weren’t even on the ballot.

Election pundits think that may be the wave of the future, with Republicans standing little chance of winning countywide races in Bibb County, while Republican ranks increase in surrounding communities such as Houston County.

Chris Grant, an associate professor of political science at Mercer University, said Republicans are moving from Bibb County.

“Clearly, Republican-leaning whites are leaving the county or they’re dying, one way or the other, and they’re being replaced with black Democratic voters or progressive whites,” Grant said Wednesday. “The exact opposite’s going on in Houston County.”

Grant noted that the races for district attorney and clerk of Superior Court in Bibb County had nearly identical totals, with about 35,000 votes for the Democrat and about 27,000 votes for the Republican. Those weren’t far off from the presidential race, either. The exception seemed to be the race for County Commission chairman, Grant said, in which Democratic incumbent Sam Hart took about 41,000 votes to his opponent’s 22,000. Grant said Republicans crossed party lines to support Hart over his Republican opponent, Tom Wagoner.

Bibb County Republican Party chairwoman Suzanne Wood said that’s happened before.

“In Macon and Bibb County, Republicans will vote for Democrats, and I have not see any evidence that Democrats will vote for Republicans to the point that they will win,” she said.

Wood has also noticed the counties moving in different directions.

“I don’t think a Democrat could win right now in Houston County. It’s a Republican stronghold,” she said.

Houston County Superior Court Clerk Carolyn Sullivan was the only person in Houston County to qualify as a Democrat four years ago. Sullivan won re-election Tuesday -- after running as a Republican, without Democratic opposition.

Sullivan couldn’t be reached Wednesday. Four years ago, she talked about running for election in Houston County in 1982.

“Everybody was a Democrat,” she said then. “I don’t think Houston County even had a Republican Party then. We all just went down and registered as Democrats.”

Today, the Georgia Democratic Party’s web page lists the Houston County Democratic Party’s chairman post as vacant. Calls to Democrats from Houston County, and the state party, were not returned Wednesday.

Aaron Hufstetler, chairman of Houston County’s Republican Party, said it’s possible a Democrat could win election in a corner of Houston County, but it’s not likely.

“I don’t see Bibb County changing any time soon, and I don’t see Houston County changing. A lot of people are leaving Bibb County for that very reason,” he said.

Hufstetler said people should look at issues, not parties, and vote for the best candidate. He admitted that he once voted for a Democrat himself -- most recently, for former Gov. Sonny Perdue, when he was running for state Senate. Perdue last ran as a Democrat 16 years ago.

Charlie Bishop, who successfully ran as a Republican for the Bibb County Commission chairman’s post eight years ago, said he was aided by a winning Republican presidential candidate. He lost to Hart four years ago, when the Democratic presidential candidate won. Presidential races draw many people to the voting booths who won’t normally vote -- and who are more likely to cast party-line votes for candidates, he said.

“They’ll go straight down that list, if they’re a hard-shell Republican or a hard-shell Democrat.”

Bishop said if he decides to make a run for political office again, he’d consider changing parties. Running as a conservative Democrat might be his only route to success.

“I would rather run as an independent, but it’s too time consuming to do that,” he said. “And (voters) are still going to go down the D and R list.”

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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