Flip the calendar back to 2008. Aside from the stimulus package, if there was a single measure that split Georgia Republicans last year it was the vote over the $307 billion farm bill.
The bill was vetoed by President George W. Bush. Congress overrode it. Voting in favor of it were Saxby Chambliss — up for re-election — and Johnny Isakson in the Senate, and Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston in the House.
Opposing it were U.S. Reps. Tom Price, Lynn Westmoreland, Paul Broun and Nathan Deal.
At the time, the split was described as case of division by ambition. On one side were Republicans who had to run statewide, or had dreams of doing so.
On the other were those those could vote from secure GOP bases.
Within his party, Chambliss was derided for voting for the farm bill, its subsidies and its nutrition-for-the-poor programs. But many of the rank-and-file gave Chambliss a pass because of the bill’s general election implications, and because of the votes and money behind the ag vote.
Deal, the north Georgia congressman, hadn’t planned on running for governor last year. But he’s now the only Republican candidate with a recorded “no” vote on the topic who’s running statewide.
“Certainly we’ll be explaining to the agriculture community the reasons behind that vote,” said Deal spokesman Harris Blackwood.
Spokesman Harris Blackwood points to strong support for Deal among poultry farmers in north Georgia. But poultry isn’t as heavily subsidized as the row-crop areas of south Georgia.
And keep in mind that, for the first time in the lifespans of most Georgians, we will have an open race for state agriculture commissioner. Farming will be a significant topic in 2010.
Do Tommy Irvin’s votes shift from the Democratic column to the Republican one? And if so, where do they go in the governor’s race?
“[Farmers] are going to find in Nathan a governor who is very pro-agriculture. He’s probably the only one who grew up on a farm.”
Blackwood promised more detail than most of us are likely to want. We’re going to learn that Deal’s daddy was a vocational agriculture teacher in Sandersville, and that Future Farmers of America award that young Deal won.
One easy prediction: Tractor shots galore.
For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.