With Democrats in twilight, a new political game emerges

Since the dust settled from last month’s elections, six state lawmakers, all white and all from rural Georgia, have thrown up their hands in despair.

With the Democratic Party entering a kind of twilight existence in Georgia, the six have declared themselves Republicans.


A once powerful Democratic caucus gathers in November to elect officers.

In both the House and the Senate, GOP leaders are now within a few arm-twists of the two-thirds majority necessary to settle all constitutional questions and — perhaps just as important — override a governor’s veto.

November’s Democratic deflation could tempt one to declare politics at an end in Georgia. But it is simply moving into a more subtle, intramural phase in which six virginal Republicans could play a crucial role — particularly in the House.

Georgia politics has become an all-Republican matter of fiscal conservatism vs. social conservatism. With Democrats largely on the sidelines.

The new battle lines have been emerging over the past few sessions of the Legislature on issues such as immigration, abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Often the difference is one of tone rather than substance. Confrontations often occur behind closed doors, during members-only sessions.

But twice in the past month disputes have broken out into the open. In the House, a contest for majority leader pitted Rep. Larry O’Neal of Bonaire, chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, against Rep. James Mills of Gainesville, one of the strongest social conservatives in the chamber.

O’Neal’s margin of victory was not made public. We’re told that the vote wasn’t particularly close. “I wish I would have gotten commitments from my own Hall County delegation. That would have helped,” Mills told a reporter. “But that’s water under the bridge.” Yet the division was, and remains, very real.

Last month’s coup against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle by Republican leaders of the Senate, stripping him of authority over that chamber, could be interpreted as another facet of the social-fiscal conflict.

For decades, under Democratic rule, members of the state Senate patterned themselves after their Washington counterparts: They were in the deliberative chamber where hot legislation went to cool off.

That has become less so since the Republican takeover. Some of the most divisive social measures of the past few years — on immigration, abortion, stem cell research, voter ID and firearm possession — have had their speedy births in the Senate.

Politicians elected statewide, including the lieutenant governor, often prefer their legislation without sharp edges — and to that extent, Cagle has occasionally served as a brake. But no longer. The Republican senators now in charge hail from districts that are thoroughly populated with GOP voters. Subtlety is no longer required.

That makes the House — with its labyrinth of a committee system — even more important for fiscal conservatives who want to avoid what they see as the excesses of their socially committed colleagues.

In the last legislative session, the lobbyist for Georgia Right to Life was reduced to shouts of protest — outside the House doors — as he saw the group’s most prized bill die. The measure to make abortions based on race a crime had quickly cleared the Senate. But it became bogged down in the passive-aggressive limbo of the House — too hot to kill and too hot to pass.

This is where five former Democrats — state Reps. Alan Powell of Hartwell, Bob Hanner of Parrot, Amy Carter and Ellis Black of Valdosta, and Gerald Greene of Cuthbert — could make an outsized difference. (Tim Golden, a Democrat from Valdosta, switched in the Senate.)

“I’m a fiscal conservative,” said Hanner, a 35-year veteran of the Capitol.

“I was Gerald yesterday, I’m Gerald today, and I’ll be Gerald tomorrow,” Greene said.

Powell, upon becoming the first to switch after the Nov. 2 vote, said he remains as curmudgeonly hostile to Republican extremes as he is to Democratic ones. “My politics have not changed, but I saw the numbers crystal clear,” Powell said. “I am reflecting my constituents.”

None of the five wants to step on the toes of new friends, and all declare themselves to be lifelong conservatives. But none has offered up evidence of a road-to-Damascus conversion like that experienced by Zell Miller, the former governor and U.S. senator who has became a champion of conservative social issues.

In all likelihood, the five Democratic converts in the House will provide ballast for the fiscally conservative side of the Republican ledger, making it even harder for the most passionate members of the GOP base to get what they want.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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Last Man Standing

December 4th, 2010
3:46 pm


December 4th, 2010
4:09 pm

If you can’t beat them join them.They are all the same D or R.


December 4th, 2010
4:56 pm

It’s wishful thinking by liberals to believe these new Republicans, “reflecting their constituents”, will not trend more conservative – socially and fiscally. That’s how work gets done.


December 4th, 2010
5:07 pm

I hope this will moderate the Republicans a little bit.

Keep doing this GOP

December 4th, 2010
5:13 pm

Maybe they can give us another roadkill bill to sign into law.

Inman Park Boy

December 4th, 2010
5:18 pm

When I was a boy, the Democrats had the same numerical advantage in Georgia that Republicans have now. So…what’s all the excitement about? By the way, the Dems did it to themselves, starting as long ago as 1972 with the nomination of George McGovern. They have trended “far-left” ever since. The result? Well, you see it.

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

December 4th, 2010
5:21 pm

Dear God help the citizens of this state. So this is what it was like in this state in the 50s and 60s. No doubt, the Republicans will overstep their bounds and even their supporters will turn against them. What can we look forward to in the name of conservatism?

Guns in elementary schools and churches
No Sunday alcohol sales or any other day of the week
Forced allegiance to the Georgia flag by all citizens

Where will it end?


December 4th, 2010
5:34 pm

With EVERY constitutional officer who was elected being endorsed by Georgia Right to Life, and a big number of the legislative winners, and the county Republican primary voters voting between 50 and 92% for a Georgia Human Life Amendment, the fiscal-only crowd may need to rethink things?

Slow for Donkey Xing « The Georgia Column

December 4th, 2010
6:02 pm

[...] 12/4: More, from Galloway’s Dec. 5 Sunday column: “November’s Democratic deflation could tempt one to declare politics at an end in Georgia. [...]

the original and still the best John Galt

December 4th, 2010
6:08 pm

Mr. Inman park above is correct. There’s little difference between the Georgia political scene in the ’60’s and now. Some of the same players are even still around.

As I always say, George Wallace was right. The difference in the two parties is the difference in Tweedledee and Tweedledum.


December 4th, 2010
6:15 pm

“Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never did and it never will.” Abolitionist Frederick Douglas

The social conservatives in the House have a mandate from the people, the Personhood Amendment question passed overwhelmingly in EVERY county it was offered in. Georgians want their representatives to represent them on this issue. The fact that 72% of the Democrats were in favor of it should speak volumes to both parties.

Don’t buck the power of an informed and vocal electorate.

Chuck Allison

December 4th, 2010
6:48 pm

Republicans, please be careful allowing ex-Democrats into the fold. A leopard cannot change his spots overnight. Until we can trust them, new Republicans should only be allowed to vote under supervision.

Last Man Standing

December 4th, 2010
6:49 pm

This is Mrs. Norman Maine:

“hat can we look forward to in the name of conservatism?

Guns in elementary schools and churches
No Sunday alcohol sales or any other day of the week
Forced allegiance to the Georgia flag by all citizens”

We could be in much, much worse shape. We could have the democrats! Then, if they had their way, no one would have any guns except the criminals. We would have Sunday sales, as well as every other day sales, of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. We could have forced allegiance to Obama and the deadly duo of Reed and Pelosi. We could also find and embrace the crushing poverty that accompanies socialism.

And that, Mrs. Maine, is where it would end . . .

Last Man Standing

December 4th, 2010
6:51 pm

Inman Park Boy:

I have very fond memories of Inman Park. My mother-in-law lived on Sinclair.


December 4th, 2010
7:02 pm

Speaking as a fiscal conservative I understand the ramifications of that philosophy in a socioeconomic system of government. Recalling President Eisenhower’s warning to be wary of the military industrial complex of the 1950’s, we must be wary of the socioeconmic complex of today. By that I mean we must not allow social issues to overburden our economic means.


December 4th, 2010
7:16 pm

@ This is Mrs. Norman Maine 5:21

Suppose I promise that you shall never be required to carry your firearm to school, you may get drunk on any day of the week, and you won’t be required to salute any flag. Would that make you happy? Then consider it done.Be happy my dear, we aim to please!

Jim S.

December 4th, 2010
7:32 pm

I’m not sure that I agree with the analysis that the rural former dems would be more apt to be fiscal conservatives rather than social conservatives. The poorer parts of the state need ‘Atlanta’ tax money to survive, but the social conservative issues play much better there than in suburban districts. Don’t forget, they can face Republican primary opposition now…most likely from some modern day ‘prohibitionist’.

John Radney

December 4th, 2010
7:39 pm

I hate democrats, their families and pets, and the grandparents and their pet goldfish. Way to go Replubs!

Retired veteran

December 4th, 2010
7:58 pm

Mr. Radney expressed my feelings very well.Never met a good democrat,only those like Jimmy Carter and Hank Johnson. Looking forward to taking over the Senate and White House in 2012.


December 4th, 2010
8:08 pm

@ Retired veteran 7:58

Say again, over.

Travis McGee

December 4th, 2010
8:15 pm

If you think a little old “pat down” at the airport is a violation of your civil liberties, wait until the Republicans have their way. They’ve never met a civil liberty they weren’t anxious to squash in the name of patriotism or conservatism — failing to realize the sage admonition of Ol’ Sam Johnson: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

David in Atlanta

December 4th, 2010
9:17 pm

I wonder why some states are prone to dominance by a single party (either R or D). Georgia seems to favor a single party to run everything. In less than a generation, the state party switched from one to the other. I’d rather have the two parties constantly fighting each other than have one party be able to run things without any kind of check on its power. A healthy democracy is dependent on having more than one political party. Political parties need to have a viable opponent to keep them from overstepping their bounds.


December 4th, 2010
9:23 pm

Georgia will soon be the Taliban of the nation when the right wing Republicans get their way. We will no longer have any freedoms but the ones they want us to have. I hope this is what a majority of the citizens of our state want because it’s what they’re going to get.


December 4th, 2010
9:52 pm

If this Legislature is what you call fiscal conservative, I’m Elvis’ love child. A bunch of washed out Dems change a letter and suddenly some blind, cliff jumping Republicans get giddy. The switchers are running the party and Republicans just let them. The Dems don’t have to worry about losing their caucus. It’s still there. They just picked a different letter behind their name just to keep their precious connections to perks and lobbyists.


December 4th, 2010
9:57 pm

Last man standing, huh – if we were only so lucky — you are clearly an idiot.


December 4th, 2010
10:43 pm

“Georgia politics has become an all-Republican matter of fiscal conservatism vs.social conservatism. ” You still do not get it Jim. It’s American conservative vs. Socialism.

There is a difference you know and if you will take to time to listen to Americans you Socialist Democrats and money spending Republicans just might get it through your heads by the next election.


December 4th, 2010
10:55 pm

@ Travis McGee, bart, Red

WOW, please let me know when you guys are gonna be on the road. You fella’s need to get together somehow to commiserate. Being blue in Georgia really has you seeing red!!


December 5th, 2010
12:34 am

Just what we need: more one-party rule. Corrupt, self-serving one-party rule, to top it off.

Screw this, I’m voting Libertarian from now on.

Alabama Communist

December 5th, 2010
1:22 am

In two years from now! The switchhitters will be jumping ship and trying to find another party that will have them before the masses raise up and hang the Republicans for lying out of their Corporate Control teeth that a Republican Paradise was possible if Jesus has not return……..

Aaron Burr V. Mexico

December 5th, 2010
4:17 am

There Retired Soldier goes again, talking about how hateful democrats are through one side of his mouth while spouting agreement with the most hateful of Republicans with the other.

How typical.


December 5th, 2010
5:18 am

What Bart said…

And we will continue to lead the nation in unemployment, school failure, and misery, but by gosh, we won’t have any uppity gays, or women who want to make their own decisions about their medical care…


December 5th, 2010
6:02 am

the two dominant political ‘parties’ democrackkks AND republicannots are the TWO MOST EVIL FORCES that control us. ABOLISH political parties NOW. SHUT them down.

Robert W. Patrick

December 5th, 2010
7:32 am

Why panic and scream about evil that lurks in the dark; uncovering it makes it no less crippling and
dibilitating! There is, seemingly, not an ounce of difference between a red coat, blue coat or a turncoat in GA politics, as I have witnessed and, think I, understand it. Are politicans not all self-serving, ransoming themselves to get elected and stay in office at all cost, to the benefit of some and the demise of others? Leaperds are leaperds even when their spots are heavily painted!


December 5th, 2010
8:17 am

It’s Sunday and I’m gonna get drunk before the Repugs amend the Constitution making even that joy illegal.


December 5th, 2010
8:19 am

We’ll just wait and see what GA thinks when those suburban houses are selling for Detroit prices because no rational business relocator will enter this rabbit hole.

Buzz G

December 5th, 2010
8:20 am

I get a laugh every time I see someone post a comment that there are no differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. The differences are huge and growing. And the people of Georgia have pretty well figured this out. That is why the Democrats are becoming an endangered species. Some day I hope to bring my grandchildren to a museum where they can look at a picture of Cynthia Tucker and I can say, children, here is a picture of an extinct liberal Democrat. And the grandchildren will say, “Ewww, she sure is ugly.”

Keith Helms

December 5th, 2010
8:24 am

We need to curb spending first and argue about ’social issues’ later. The first and primary place to cut State and National spending on welfare for people able to work. This is not a social issue, but an issue of type of government we want, a democratic republic or Marxist. Cutting welfare and medicaid by 75% (the least amount that is fraud) would save at least $1 trillion per year.


December 5th, 2010
8:42 am

@Buzz G – that (”she sure is ugly”) is exactly the type of comment I have (unfortunately) come to expect from conservative Republicans. I would happily listen to your thoughts on fiscal and social matters — but why do you always poison the atmosphere with ugly comments. And don’t tell me that everybody does it — you can disagree with Democrats all you want, but I can’t think of a liberal politician or news celebrity who gets as personally nasty as a Palin or Limbaugh.

Donna P.

December 5th, 2010
8:53 am

To the people on here complaining about how bad Georgia will be with the Republicans running the state; did you vote on November 2, 2010? If not, then shut up! I hate people who complain about politics and/or politicians and don’t go out and vote when they have a chance to.

At least under the Republican control, employers will start hiring again because they know Republicans won’t tax them to oblivion like Democrats do. I know, the Democrats are for the “workers”. Ha!


December 5th, 2010
8:54 am

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Those of you who thought a Republican takeover of the Georgia Capitol would bring in a new era were naive. This is the same crowd with a different name. What percent of these officials are former Democrats?


December 5th, 2010
8:56 am

Buzz, now that Republicans own the State Capitol, when will they start working on issues instead of using liberals as straw men? It is almost like the dog that caught the car. It still barks, but does not know what to do with the car.


December 5th, 2010
9:08 am

Crushing poverty is coming to Georgia, except for the very rich. Watch what happens when the republicans let the state pension fund go under.


December 5th, 2010
9:16 am

Make no mistake the repubs know what to do. Try marching backwards in time. You goobers elected these folks so lets see exactly what they do. If the last eight years was an indication at least our education system will remain at the bottom and AL and FL will be running the water in the state. And maybe they will really do some good by bringing back that confederate flag that offends a large portion of the people.


December 5th, 2010
9:17 am

@ Joe 8:42

I have read your comment over several times, not because it is noteworthy or even of any interest, but I find it astounding that anyone so naive would actually put it in writing. I’m only going to throw one name out here for you sir, and if you’re truly concerned about being just and equitable you’ll find the hundreds of others on your own. That one name is Keith Olbermann.

I am fully aware that most democrats practice selective rejection so I have no expectation that you will see anything beyond the koolaid pitcher and will continue to sip until the last drop. I can’t know this of course, only you can judge the degree of fairness in your politics.


December 5th, 2010
9:27 am

Ya gotta love the new social and fiscal conservatives: Laws to benefit ME and MINE. The rest of you can go to h3ll.


December 5th, 2010
9:50 am

I drink coffee! & all republicans and democrats work for the same goverment thingy,and collect goverment payment thingy.So dont be worried if they dont do a d thingy for you.Its all about them to keep the people divided so that they keep their goverment pay check & goverment paid for insurance.Paid for by the tax payors, we pay them to divide us take our money, enslave us with laws and taxes we do not need!Wake up America!

las cruces

December 5th, 2010
10:26 am

jesus was a cool dude with a positve, loving socialist agenda, it’sa a shame he’s been hijacked by right wing haters who march in lockstep shoving their bogus mroality down everyone’s throats…Feliz Navidad!

las cruces

December 5th, 2010
10:34 am

sorry for the typos: positive,it’s,morality…english is my 2nd language.


December 5th, 2010
10:35 am

If I vote for a Democrat and then that candidate decides he’s a Republican, how can that be ethical or even legal? Just goes to show you, politicians have no loyalty to their constituents and are only interested in their own power grabs and fat wallets.