RICHARDSON: Tuesday reflections

October 20, 2013 

The election season of 2013 in Bibb County is finally over. The new mayor and commission will take their seats in January, but please bear with me for a moment as I reflect on this campaign season. It was notable for a number of reasons.

First, the election date was moved from Nov. 5 to July 16. If Rep. Allen Peake and state Sen. Cecil Staton -- knowing what they know now -- had to make that political move again, I’d bet Cheddar’s onion rings they would say, “why bother.”

As it turned out, they didn’t get the July 16 date. All they got was less than a 60-day advance, hardly enough to kiss off their newfound allies on the Democratic side of the partnership that brought consolidation to a vote after almost 100 years.

And for what? All the jockeying only produced three new faces -- Al Tillman, Mallory Jones and Scotty Shepherd.

Don’t get me wrong. The troika of Elaine Lucas, James Timley and Henry Ficklin has been busted up, and I’m thankful. Now it’s time for Virgil Watkins to show some cojones and break free of the mind-meld the troika had over him.

Another notable was the 6 percentage point rise in turnout during the runoff when compared to the September General Election. I’m sure it has happened before in other areas, but it’s happened twice in Macon/Bibb, both times with the same primary players, Mayor-elect Robert Reichert (What do you call a guy who is already mayor?) and former Mayor C. Jack Ellis.

You have to watch in awe the campaign ability of C. Jack. He worked it, and of that, you have to give him credit. But as I’ve written recently, it’s hard to recapture the spark of the past. Times change and the electorate changes faster. What happened 14 years ago cannot be recaptured. As B.B. King sang, “The thrill is gone, the thrill has gone away.”

And at least for half of the electorate, there was never a thrill. While more voters cast ballots in the runoff, half of the registered voters sat at home oblivious that there was a General Election, followed by a runoff.

Another notable was the last-minute dirt thrown from known and unknown sources. In a desperate attempt to stay afloat, Councilman Henry Ficklin did himself no favors when he attempted to link an opinion of Attorney General Sam Olens favoring his opponent, Larry Schlesinger and Councilman Charles Jones, to Olens and Schlesinger being Jewish. Funny, Jones received the same favorable decision and he’s Baptist -- go figure.

For a man who calls himself a pastor, a shepherd of the flock, to create such an anti-Semitic connection is beneath him. I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to decide what kind of character would utter such words. Racist, bigot and anti-Semite comes to my mind.

Then there was the Sunday Surprise, placed on windshields during Sunday services at a number of churches. The fliers -- an age-old tactic -- charged that long-time Democrats were actually Republicans (Ohhh, such a nasty word).

The flier threw several Democrats under the bus because they actually decided to compromise with Republicans for the greater good of consolidation, or they were running against Democrats who were in the “club.”

In essence, there is not a wit’s bit of difference in philosophy between the creators of this flier and tea party Republicans who were willing to trash the entire country because they didn’t like the health care bill passed by the Senate and House and signed by the president.

Local yo-yos looked at opposition to the consolidation bill as a party purity test, just because they said so. They lost fair and square, but that doesn’t matter to people so steeped in ideology they can’t break out of their alternate universe.

The time warp they are in has them lost in space and the results of this election should give them pause. Their time is short if they continue to play the obstructionist game. Proof? Ficklin and Timley are sitting on the sidelines. Reichert won by 10,717 votes. In case you were wondering, that’s a landslide.

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at crichardson@macon.com. Tweet @crichard1020.

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