Sunday, January 29, 2006

Redistrictgate 2006: Is Cowsert Destined to be a One-termer?

Bill Cowsert may be the smartest politician we know.  Throughout the entire redistricting hullabaloo, he’s kept his mouth shut, and as a result, the majority of the anti-redistricting attacks have been leveled at either the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce or their personal legislative gopher, Sen. Ralph Hudgens.  While it’s a stretch to say that Cowsert is emerging unscathed, he certainly isn’t taking the same heat as Chamber President Larry McKinney, or Hudgens, or even ACC Commissioner Tom Chasteen.  

The reason for Cowsert’s reticence is clear – he stands to benefit the most from the new Senate districts.  While the current district, which encompasses all of Athens, has been pretty good to the GOP lately, his proposed new district eliminates just about any chance of a Democratic takeover of the seat.  

Maybe, though, Cowsert is keeping quiet on this for another reason as well – because he knows that there’s a good chance that he might lose his Senate seat in two years.  Don’t get us wrong here, we’re not predicting a massive Democratic victory in 2008; nothing we’ve seen or heard out of the local or state Democratic parties indicates that that will happen.  

No, Bill Cowsert could lose his seat to a Republican in the 2008 GOP primary.  Here’s how.  

Given that the GOP tends to march in lockstep on just about every issue up in Atlanta, and there’s no dissent within the party, you can conveniently divide the Republican state legislators into two groups.  You’ve got the folks who vote for every cockamamie piece of legislation the GOP leadership tells them to vote for (or else!), and you’ve got the few, the proud, the safely-districted, the wild-eyed zealots who actually conceive and write the aforementioned cockamamie pieces of legislation.  

This is not to say that the first group doesn’t write bills, or that they don’t have an effect on the legislative process.  But while senators from the first group are busy working out a budget compromise or trying to get real legislation out of committee, the senators in the second group are grabbing headlines by introducing feel-good (if you’re part of the GOP base), do-nothing bills that promote little more than controversy.  Maybe the best example is the current bill that requires the Secretary of State’s office to provide every county with a copy of the Ten Commandments for exhibition in the local courthouse.

The problem with Bill Cowsert is that he is in the first group.  While we don’t agree with his politics, we’ll be the first to tell you that Cowsert wants to go to Atlanta, and get his hands dirty working on the real issues.  You won’t see Cowsert introducing legislation to ban homosexuals and illegal immigrants from listening to Tim McGraw, or whatever the next crazy bill is going to be.  If he wins in 2006, Cowsert will roll into 2008 with a solid record of voting the right way on the right things (for the GOP, that is), but he’ll be vulnerable to any right-wing zealot with a war chest and an agenda.  

Because of the way his district is drawn, Cowsert is going to be forced to go mano-a-mano with a string of right-wingers, and the name of the game will be, “Who’s More Conservative?”  

“I voted to allow counties to display the Ten Commandments in their courthouses,” Senator Cowsert will say.  

“Not good enough,” says his generic steely-eyed GOP challenger, “when I get to Atlanta, I’m going to introduce a law that forces all schoolchildren to recite the Ten Commandments every morning.  In Aramaic.  And I’m going to make sure it passes.  And then I’m going to make sure that anyone who ever listened to Menudo will be cut off from being able to call the fire department, because immigration is bad.”

An exaggeration, maybe, but you get the point.  Of course, Cowsert could surprise us.  He could become a leader in churning out ill-conceived, useless legislation as well.  But knowing Bill Cowsert, we wouldn’t say that’s likely.  We don’t like his politics, but Cowsert understands that we’ve got serious problems that call for serious men and women to address them, and he’s going to devote his time to those, and he could care less about Menudo.  And because of that, he could well lose.

Do you think that Bill Cowsert is Ralph Hudgens’ first choice to fill this brand new Senate seat that the Chamber of Commerce asked him to create?  Absolutely not.  As strange as it may seem to folks here in Athens, Bill Cowsert is too moderate for Hudgens and his ilk.  We’d bet that Hudgens is already thinking about who he can groom to challenge Cowsert in the 2008 primary.  But you redistrict with the candidates you have, not the candidates you wish you had.  

Until 2008, that is.

Related: Athens Banner-Herald: Opinion: State lawmakers are overreaching from Gold Dome,” 01/29/06
             Athens Banner-Herald: Winders: Duck, cover on redistricting question,” 01/29/06


Anonymous said...

I told someone the other day that to me, this is the issue everyone is overlooking. Who is this district designed for? Not Cowsert. This is designed so someone from Oconee or Walton County can go to the state house. Not necessarily a bad thing -- Oconee used to have its own Senator, but redistricting gave us Sen. Broun (who lasted forever after beating Hubert Wells from Watkinsville), Haines, Kemp, and now Cowsert. Maybe it is time for Oconee County to have a Senator under the dome.

Publius said...

Oh holy crap...I'm about to sound quasi-Republican, I think.

First of all, Oconee County does have it's own senator under the Dome. His name is Brian Kemp, and where he makes his home is irrelevant. Don't believe me? Ask yourself, who would have done a better job representing Oconee County in Atlanta, Brian Kemp from Athens, or Becky Vaughn from Oconee County? Brian's politics are minority politics in his hometown, but they're majority politics in the OC. Conversely, Becky Vaughn's politics are minority politics in the OC, but they jibe well with the politics in most of ACC.

My real point is this, however. From a strictly nonpartisan standpoint, Oconee and Clarke Counties should be in the same district, at least until such time as ACC has the population to be its own district. Oconee County has been linked with Clarke ever since we carved ourselves off in the 1800's and it is now. Many of Oconee's residents live in the OC and commute to ACC for work, so I think that the counties together do constitute a "community of interest."

monticello_pres said...

Wow - now this is political analysis at its finest. It's too easy to predict a Cowsart win in 06. But we are now debating a Cowsart challenge and loss in 08.

In the meantime, Archbishop Hudgens will certainly reintroduce legislation to force 2 sets of drinking fountains in public and return us to life under the Church of England. Right? The Menudo legislation is a done deal and long overdue to any red blooded "zealot" Republican.

Publius said...

So you flatly dismiss the speculation that the new district is going to be fertile ground for Republicans, especially those more conservative than Cowsert?

Ok, that's why we have - oh gosh, I don't know - debate?

I doubt that Hudgens will bring back the days of two drinking fountains - that's actually kind of obscene. But he's already proven that he'll introduce just about anything a local Chamber of Commerce asks him to introduce.

monticello_pres said...

I do admit that these 2 districts will lean conservative more than liberal. That would favor Republicans. Whether either will favor zealots, I'm not sure. I hope not.

I suppose that I saw the Dems do this for so long that I am just not suprised now that the parties have traded majority status.

By the way, neither is right. The process, as you have pointed out before, is flawed. You have the players making the rules - and the referees are not in the ballpark to oversee the plays.

Publius said...

Thank you! I've been singing the redistricting reform song for a while now.

But unfortunately, the players also get to control whether the referees even get in the ballpark, so barring some really bold action somewhere, we're still pretty much screwed.

Publius is the publisher of AthPo, and a Democrat. Most members of the local and state Democratic parties hate him.

Anonymous said...

Why are you hated by the local and state Democratic parties??

Anonymous said...

"Publius is the publisher of AthPo, and a Democrat. Most members of the local and state Democratic parties hate him."

Nawh, nothing like that. The truth is that most members have never heard of you. They might hate you if they knew you existed but, I seriously doubt, Most people that I know from those groups are well aware of their failings and shortcomings. They just haven't figured out what to do about it in light of the fact that most voters outside of Athens just hate Democrats in general. It's hard to appeal to people who despise everything you stand for even when you are right. Oh! Wait! Maybe that's what you were really saying. :)

Publius said...

Ah...I didn't say they hated the blog. I said they hate (maybe dislike is a better word choice) me. I know it's tough to wrap your brains around this kids, but I've got a life outside bringing you the journalistic juggarnaut that is AthPo. I did before AthPo hit the scene, I do now, and I will when we close the doors at AthPo Global HQ for the last time, whenever that may be.

Astonishingly, some of that life outside AthPo has involved a few run-ins with members of the local and state parties, encounters which did not always end on a friendly note.

Although some of the emails we've gotten at the AthPo email account from county party members suggest that the blog isn't exactly a hit with some of their membership either.

Anonymous said...

But why do they hate you?

Publius said...

Publius would not return requests seeking comment.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed no one has yet to identify one of the real reasons Hudgens is doing this. Rumor from several sources has it a Republican elected official in the Walton County area has been telling folks that he wanted to run for the State Senate against Hudgens this year. One way to ensure that didn't happen is to cut that part of Walton County out of Hudgens' district. Simple. The fact it makes the Senate district more Republican and cuts up Clarke is just more gravy for the Republicans. But the whole mess was created to keep Hudgens from having an opponent. starts making more "sense".

Publius said...

I've heard that rumor too, but haven't been able to get solid confirmation on it. If you've got a name, I'd be happy to check it out.

Anonymous said...

As the original anonymous, I'd like to ask Publius to remove the partisan tinged glasses. Yes, Kemp is a republican. But there is a big difference when you have a senator who actually lives in your community. Issues like improving 316, economic development, etc. have languished in the OC compared to other areas. Having a Senator without all the baggage of Athens under the dome would help with those issues...... time for a rep from the OC.

Anonymous said...

And one more thing, Oconee and Clarke belong together from a geographic standpoint. But as a community of interest, we have about as much in common as Taiwan and China.

Publius said...

"As the original anonymous, I'd like to ask Publius to remove the partisan tinged glasses."

Sorry, they're permanently melded to face.

Seriously though, from one standpoint, you're probably right. But there was nothing partisan about my statement. My thing is that most of the folks who live in the OC work in ACC. A lot of people who live in ACC spend money in the OC, especially if you live on the west side and want to buy home improvement products or go to WalMart. (The whole WalMart thing is a different discussion for a different day.) So from that standpoint, I think that they are closely tied.

But what's interesting is the implication that folks in the OC are less than happy with how Brian Kemp is representing them. Do tell. You know, given the old 46th District (pre-Hudgens), the numbers might have been there for a well-connected OC Republican to challenge Kemp, or in this case, Cowsert. If anything, the numbers are even better now.

By the way, if you can figure out a way to disassociate Oconee County from ACC as far as Senate districts go, that would be really interesting, and I'll bet Ralph Hudgens would like to hear from you.

Jmac said...

Partisan tinged glasses?

Dude, that was so my line!

Anonymous said...

I'm imagining the one circumstance that would have me running get out the vote for a Republican... I wonder whether hell will actually freeze over, lol...when I bust my butt for any moderate anyone to run against Hudgens. And no matter what Jane Kidd decides about that race, we've got to support anyone besides Billy Bob Joe Bob's my brother in law.


monticello_pres said...

This is not meant to be as inflammatory as it will probably sound (read), but...

Anyone who dismisses voting for any candidate based on the "R" or "D" (or "G" or "L") behind their name illustrates the problem with politics in 2006 America.

Jmac said...

Good point monticello, though I think there's some yes and no to my agreement.

One shouldn't dismiss any candidate based on their political affliation, but rather cast their ballot based on the individual and the voter's belief if the candidate will do a good job representing his/her views. Though I consider myself a 'good' Democrat, I have voted for Republicans in the past and I imagine I will vote for some Republicans in the future (campaigning for them may be a different story). The overwhelming majority of my votes go toward Democratic candidates, but it would be wrong of me to say I'm a straight-party ticket guy.

However, isn't this why we have political parties? To help us line up people who, on the whole, are representative of our views? And if you don't know much about said candidate, doesn't looking to see their political party help give you an idea of how they are probably going to make decisions?

There are lots of problems with politics in 2006 - a lack of civility and responsible debate being two big ones - but I'm not ready to say straight-ticket voting is the problem.

Dawg Corleone said...

We had straight-ticket voting in this state for 130 years. Dems fall out of power for 2 years and scream bloody murder.

FWIW, I will quite likely vote for a Democrat for Governor this fall. I did last time.

Publius said...

So much to say...

First of all, I, for one, wonder exactly what Dawg's problem with Sonny is.

Second, the discussion on party politics has spawned some ramblings by me and a new open thread-type thing above.

Third, good luck finding a moderate anything to run against Ralph Hudgens.

Dawg Corleone said...

I thought Roy Barnes was a good governor; I think Cathy Cox will be a better one.

Sonny was a Democrat until about 15 minutes before the election, and 15 mintues after the election he was talking about raising my property taxes, so much so that Mark Taylor was able to flank him from the right. House Reps quickly straightened out on that front, and--to borrow from Hillary Clinton--they've mostly kept him on the plantation since.

Truthfully, I won't lose a lot of sleep either way. No matter who wins, Georgia will not be governed by liberals--it never has been.

But, if she gets the nomination, I'll vote for Cathy. Probably for Sonny if Taylor gets it.

Jmac said...

No matter who wins, Georgia will not be governed by liberals - it never has been.

Except during Reconstruction. But, there's that.

And, FWIW, it was the conservative who expressed his disagreement with straight-ticket voting at this site, not a Democrat.

Dawg Corleone said...

SB 386 passes House 100-69

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Sonny has said that he will veto the bill if he finds it unfair in accordance with the agreed on redistricting principles. Exactly what kind of searching analysis he will conduct remains to be seen, but I have to say at this point kudos to Sonny for having a little bit of consistency.

Anonymous said...

Where'd everybody go?