FERGUSON: A point of light for Georgia Democrats

August 23, 2013 

To say that the Democratic Party in Georgia has hit on hard times would be quite an understatement. All of the major positions of power at the state level are held by Republicans, and they have a solid majority in the state House and Senate. Both of our senators in Washington are Republicans as well. Democrats have been relegated to holding a relatively small number of state and federal congressional seats from districts that were designed by majority Republicans to group their likely voters together.

But there may be one small, bright light on the horizon for Georgia Democrats. Her name is Michelle Nunn.

Michelle is the daughter of legendary Sen. Sam Nunn, who was a well-known and widely respected Democratic senator from Georgia back when Democrats still ruled the South. Obviously she’s getting most of her publicity, at least initially, because of her last name. She even looks a lot like her Dad.

Having a famous father is not going to get her elected, but it gives her a certain amount of credibility by osmosis. Polls being conducted against her potential Republican opponents show her doing very well against any of them. But realistically those polls don’t mean a whole lot at this point and she’s facing an uphill battle in this very red state.

Nunn is still largely an unknown quantity to the public as this is her first run for public office. Up to now she’s been working in charity organizations and is currently the CEO of the George H.W. Bush-inspired Points of Light Foundation. I had no idea that whole “thousand points of light” stuff was still around, but apparently Bush was more inspirational than I realized.

She has pledged to be the same kind of politician her father was -- one who puts the country first and works with representatives of both parties to get things done. She has said that all parties in Washington, including the president, are responsible for the gridlock that has kept our government from attending to its most basic functions. Of course, it’s all just campaign rhetoric at this point but it’s a sentiment I strongly agree with, and I’m sure it’s a message that will resonate with a lot of independent voters in the state.

In the end, though, her chances of winning will have a lot to do with who the Republicans nominate to run against her. If one of their more far-right candidates like Paul Broun (who labels scientific theories on evolution and the Big Bang as “lies straight from the pit of hell”) or Phil Gingrey (who sort of agreed with the deposed congressman who said rape victims are unlikely to get pregnant) she is likely to compete strongly for more moderate voters, and it could turn into a real horse race.

Leaders in the state Republican Party seem genuinely concerned, and they are considering moving up the primary election date next year from its usual time in the “dog days” of summer to late spring to increase voter turnout. The thinking seems to be that holding a primary when more people are likely to vote will somehow favor the more moderate candidates.

In any event, barring some gross misstep or unforeseen scandal on her part, Michelle Nunn has given us a shot at something none of us would have expected a few months ago -- a real competitive race for a Senate seat in Georgia.

I will admit that it has been a long time since I voted for a Democrat, but I’m an independent voter and I will be watching this race closely to see how it plays out. I’m glad Nunn has chosen to run. Voters deserve options and elections should not be won by default. One-candidate elections are not a sign of a healthy democracy.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.

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