- We'll start with an easy one. George Maxwell, David Lynn, and Kathy Hoard will win, even if there is opposition.
- In District 8, States McCarter has already hand-picked his successor (David Hamilton), and there's no one else in the race, although we expect that will change. Anyone know what Annette Nelson is up to these days? A smart candidate would be talking to the La Puerta del Sol folks and making some inroads into that organization, and we would predict that zoning is going to be the issue here. But Hamilton is the prohibitive favorite, since he'll be bringing the teeming masses of Cedar Creek along with him to the polls.
- District 9 is a toss-up, since there are no announced candidates yet. C'mon people, get it together.
- District 1 is going to be interesting. You've got James Garland (by the way, Blake, the elections are non-partisan, so should you really broadcast the candidates' party ID's? We're just sayin') who has been a consistent thorn in the Commission's side, as well as a frequent writer of letters to the ABH, and a former columnist for the now-defunct Athens Weekly News. To be honest, we don't know much about his opponent, Doug Lowry. If you do, drop us a line. Right now, we believe that this race is going to break for Garland. He's got experience as a candidate, connections within the community, and, even though the election is technically non-partisan, Garland will have the ACC Republican Party on his side. (Think the ACC Republicans are a joke? Think again. They pushed the nonpartisan elections referendum through, while the local Democrats sat around trying to increase Jane Kidd's majority.) Considering the ongoing moderation of District 1, as well as the non-partisan factor, we're predicting Garland wins by 5 points.
- In Mayoral action, no one knows whether Heidi Davison will run again or not, which makes making a prediction pretty tough. If she runs, we think she'll find that her base has, shall we say, eroded in the last four years. We're betting she knows that already, hence the hesitation to run. If Davison runs, look for a similar outcome to 2002, with a runoff between the incumbent and a challenger, with the incumbent losing. If Heidi bows out, it's anybody's guess. Tom Chasteen has decent name recognition, but also has managed to alienate the progressive, politically active base that he would need for a win. We don't know much about Keith Johnson or Charlie Maddox, although a friend of ours speaks very highly of Maddox. And that leaves us with Andy Rusk. Andy's the wild card in this race. He could be a spoiler, and say what you will about his "from-the-hip" style, he's got ideas and he's not afraid to use them. If Andy gets the right folks helping him out, folks who understand how to win on a shoestring and use grassroots action, then he has a shot at this thing.
- In State House District 115, incumbent Jane Kidd is stepping down to run for State Senate. (More on that later.) This is a safe Democratic seat, so the battle is in the primary between Doug McKillip and...well, maybe no one. Former state Rep. Scott Dix is mulling over a challenge, and minister Dan Maxey was in and then out. Democrat wins, but which Democrat is anybody's guess.
- In State House 114, things are starting to get interesting. Rumors abound that Keith Heard may retire, and confirmation abounds that if he does, former ACC Commissioner Alvin Sheats is running for the seat. Interesting dynamic to note: Sheats and current ACC District 3 Commissioner George Maxwell are not exactly buddy-buddy, so the normally taciturn Maxwell should be strongly courted for an endorsement by anyone who wants to run against Sheats. Of course, all of this is contingent on Heard's retirement. For what it's worth, unless he's got some skeletons that are about to pop out of the closet, we think he'll run again. If he does, he wins, and the status quo is preserved.
- In State Senate action, Jane Kidd, as mentioned above is running, as is her 2004 opponent for State House, Bill Cowsert (R). Here's the thing on this race. Kidd is a good legislator, but kind of a lackluster campaigner, and in this race, she doesn't have the luxury of ignoring the swing votes. The numbers in this district are neutral at best, possibly even leaning Republican, given Oconee County's high turnout. For what it's worth, we hope she will get a bump from a hard-working candidate for Congress (more on that later), but it probably won't be enough. Our prediction, Cowsert in a squeaker.
- Two Congressional races to watch, although only one represents Athens. We're concerned about John Barrow's chances in the new 12th Congressional District. The GOP wants the seat back, the Democrats want to keep it, but the new districting makes it lean a little more right (albeit still slightly Democratic) than in 04. Problem is, in a district that went about 55% Democratic, Barrow only got 51.8%. This could cause him some angst come next November against Max Burns. Right now, we predict Burns in a close one.
- In the 10th Congressional District, Charlie Norwood seems unstoppable but we're not so sure. We'll submit a comment that we posted earlier today to give you our take. Right now, it's Norwood's to lose, until a Democrat jumps in.
To answer the question a few comments ago, as to why Democrats should run far away from that particular district, I can tell you that the numbers aren't very encouraging, even with the addition of Athens to the district.
You've got two major metros in the district, Athens and Columbia County. While Athens is solid D, it usually breaks about 60-40, which isn't nearly enough to balance the votes coming out of Columbia County (suburban Augusta), which usually breaks about 75-25 for the GOP. That means that any Democrat running in the 10th will have to do extrememly well in Athens, and clean up un the North Georgia rural counties just to have a chance against the Columbia County GOP base. On top of that, add in the 10,000 or votes that are going to come out of Oconee County, and you can see why it's a daunting district for Dems.
Which isn't to say that the District isn't winnable by a Democrat. But, to win, the Democrat would have to be well-funded. I'd mention here that, from a fundraising standpoint, Norwood has not had serious competition since 1996 (David Bell was the Democrat then). His last challenger, Bob Ellis, raised a paltry $113K, which was the most anyone has raised since that 1996 race. In 2002, Norwood's challenger raised less than $20 (if memory serves), and in 98 and 2000, his challenger raised significantly less than $100,000.
So, show me a Democrat who is committed to spending hours every day for 11 months asking strangers for money, and I'll show you someone who can win that district, or at least make it interesting.
That's it for now, except to say this. If you are a candidate, or you know a candidate, put them in touch with us, ok?