Three white rural Democrats in the House have switched party loyalty in the last 48 hours. And we understand that three more are being courted by House Republicans.
So by the time the House Democratic caucus assembles at 1 p.m. today to elect new leadership, the group could be down to 65 members – barely more than the third of the chamber needed to block a constitutional amendment.
Two candidates have presented themselves for House minority leader, to replace the departing DuBose Porter of Dublin: Stacey Abrams of Atlanta and Virgil Fludd of Tyrone. Calvin Smyre of Columbus, former chairman of the state Democratic party, had been urged into the contest by some — but has decided to stay on the sidelines.
Abrams and I happened to be at the same Georgia State University event last night – which looked at the aftereffects of the Nov. 2 vote.
I asked her how Democrats intended to climb out of their hole. The 36-year-old tax lawyer said to think of politics as a product. “You can try to steal support, or you can create a new market. I think you have to create a new market,” she said.
So what does that mean? The racial segregation of Georgia vote is devastating to Democrats, who depend on a biracial coalition for success. Breaking out of the box means moving the topic off race – a difficult proposition in the South.
Gender may be the answer, Abrams and others think. The Republican party has become the party of the white male Georgian. White female voters have become the decision-makers in elections – the swing voters.
To climb out of the black-versus-white box, Democrats will need to create a different, male-versus-female box – with education and economic security as the primary issues.
At that same GSU event was state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur). She agreed. “It’s very important that the gender gap be understood by the Democratic party now,” she said.
A woman, by the way, has never been named leader of a House or Senate caucus.
Fludd has sent a letter to members of the House Democratic caucus that includes this:
Our troubles as a party and as a caucus pale in comparison with the very real troubles of our fellow citizens. Unemployment is still high; our poverty rate grows. Our schools are struggling. …
Our new caucus should be smarter, better at communicating, more forceful at times, and at others, willing to work across party lines on sound policy for the betterment of our fellow Georgians. Most importantly, we should be what we’ve always been – true to our ideals and our principles.
Another tidbit from the GSU event: I asked the lawmakers there if they would be willing to pledge allegiance to the state flag of Georgia as part of the daily opening ritual when the Legislature convenes in January.
Abrams said she could not. She pledges allegiance to the American flag – and allegiance, she argued, isn’t something that can be pledged twice. Not if it’s to mean anything. State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he’ll abstain as well. “That’s when I head for the anteroom,” he quipped.
Carol Porter, the former candidate for lieutenant governor, has also jumped into the whither-Democrats discussion with this post on her Facebook page:
“Alan Powell, Bob Hanner & Gerald Greene switched parties for a reason. The “Democratic Tent” in GA has become so small it can not cover even those in it. Harsh yes, but someone has to say it.
“Many wavering Dems feel excluded by the narrow message. If elected officials feel comfortable switching, imagine how easy it will be for voters. It is called political science for a reason and it is time for wholesale change in the DPG.”
Over at PeachPundit.com, Chris Huttman says switching parties may not save Bob Hanner or Gerald Greene when it comes to redistricting. Here’s just a taste:
“According to 2009 census estimates (which tend to undercount urban areas, which means the numbers will actually be even worse) Hanner and Greene’s districts have a population of approximately 44,000 people each. Well here’s the problem – Georgia’s population is estimated to be 9.8 million, and 1/180th of that is 54,606.
“That means that each one of these districts will go into redistricting at about 80% of the population needed to make a district, meaning that they’ll each need to come up with an additional 15% or so (under Roy rules) or 19% (under Larios rules).”
Newly re-elected U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop was one of those attending a retirement event for state Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin. Upon approaching the podium, he said, “I’m Lazarus and I’m proud to be standing.”
Bishop also read a letter of congratulations to Irvin from President Barack Obama, which was received with polite applause.
The state GOP has a new executive director – or at least an acting one. Kevin Harris, a former chairman of the 9th District GOP, will replace Toby Carr, who has joined Gov.-elect Nathan Deal’s transition team.