So, you thought the election was over? Not really, at least not locally. Its just gone into a stealthier phase in a battle that will be carried out under the Gold Dome within our local legislative delegation. Who won on Nov. 6 is not in question, its who lost.
Nonpartisan elections were on the consolidation debate table last session. It was non-negotiable for Democrats as having the Sheriff as top cop was non-negotiable for Republicans. Now, with control of the local delegation, Republicans want to get that slice of the pie, too.
I favor nonpartisan elections, but I do understand the reasoning of those in opposition. There were three races that upset the Republican apple cart and provided the impetus for a renewed drive for nonpartisan elections. The first race involved state Sen. Miriam Paris and her defeat by state Sen.-elect David Lucas, a defeat that was set up by Republicans during the last reapportionment. Several important 26th District precincts were shifted to state Sen. Cecil Staton in District 18. That move provided his margin of victory over a primary challenger. They also pushed the 25th District into the area. The Republicans thought, with their support, financially and organizationally, that Paris could pull it out, but they knew the numbers were not there. Thats why they threw District 25 (Republican) into the local mix. With three senators, Lucas wouldnt be able, by himself, to stop local legislation as former state Sen. Robert Brown was able to do.
The other two races causing the push to nonpartisanship were losses in the Superior Court clerks race and the District Attorneys office. Linda Tillman, the much more experienced candidate, lost to Erica Woodford because Woodford had a D by her name and she was able to ride the overwhelming wave created by President Barack Obama to victory. District Attorney Greg Winters met the same fate as Tillman for the same reasons.
The DAs office, Superior Court clerk, sheriff, judges, tax commissioner, coroner, solicitor general, school board and water authority positions have no business being partisan, but those are the rules of the game and Woodford and David Cooke, now the DA-elect, played the hand they were given.
The math is easy. If you buy into the black equals Democrat and white equals Republican way of reapportionment thinking, the majority, probably 53 percent or more, of Bibbs voters are black. That basically means that if black voters turn out to the polls, no countywide position, including the mayor of the consolidated government, is out of reach. The mistake in that thinking is that no community is monolithic. Black and white voters, with the election and re-elections of Mayor Robert Reichert and County Commission Chairman Sam Hart, have shown they can be color blind in casting their ballots.
Bibb County actually looks like the perfect laboratory. When the voter makeup is a mix, more moderate candidates surface because they have to appeal to all communities. Political parties dont like that. The Democrats did it when they were in power and Republicans are doing it now, using the reapportionment process to make voting districts for local, state and federal offices ideologically pure. Thats one of the main reasons for the dysfunction in Washington, D.C. Our lawmakers dont have to get along, or get anything done, to get re-elected.
The same plate is being served in the Georgia General Assembly. Both parties have done so well in setting up their districts to favor their re-elections that of the 235 races (one was a special Republican primary in state Senate District 30) on the ballot Nov. 6, 180 were unopposed by either a Republican or Democratic challenger.
How do we get around this? We need to demand that lawmakers hand over control, as they have in other states, to a nonpartisan commission, a panel of judges or some other composition, to come up with district lines. When representatives have to think about a diverse constituency, well get better government and we can stop playing the redistricting game.
Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraphs editorial page editor. He can be reached at (478)744-4342 or via e-mail at email@example.com.