Monday, March 27, 2006

Anyone want to run against Ralph?

Wanted: Candidate to challenge entrenched Republican State Senator. Good fundraising network essential; centrist street cred preferable. Contact your local Democratic party.

The ABH talks a little about the struggle to find someone to run against Ralph Hudgens this year. With a little less than thirty days to go before filing, the crunch is on.

Right now, you’ve got a couple of gentlemen flirting with the race. As we mentioned some two weeks ago, some well-connected Democrats have been whispering sweet nothings in the ear of one Jim Ponsoldt, law professor. Ponsoldt is a good choice; his law school connections will make raising money somewhat less of an uphill battle, and he has both run for office (ACC District 9) and served in office (Clarke County School Board).

The other person dipping their toe in the electoral waters is the chairman-elect of the Clarke County Democratic Party, Mac Rawson. Again, the fundraising may be less of a struggle, if the local Democratic machine gets behind Rawson. JMac has an interesting take on Rawson and today’s ABH story – check it out. We’re not sure if it isn’t pretty accurate. Either way, it’s pretty amusing.

Please also note that the Democratic Party of Georgia is saying that this race is a high-level target for them. Gee guys, will you be as forthcoming with the help as you were for Becky Vaughn, when you targeted her race in 2004?

So what does it take to run a good race against a bad Republican? Well, for starters, we’re not 100% sure that an Athens candidate is the way to go. We know, outside Athens, the bench of qualified Democrats gets pretty shallow. But, we also take exception to the remarks of Athens’ self-professed political swami, Charles Bullock, when he avers that a successful candidate will be someone with previous political experience.

Not necessarily. In fact, if you find a Democrat who can appeal to the areas outside Athens while making sure that Athens trusts him or her as well, well, that candidate has a shot. If the candidate has never run for elective office before, that might even be a plus; it opens Hudgens up to the usual “career politician,” “sold out our interests to the big money lobbyists,” type of charges. As long as the potential candidate is willing to put in the sweat equity it takes to introduce himself or herself to the voters (and retail politics still works to a large extent in a race like this), then being a relative unknown isn’t a huge hindrance.

What is a hindrance is the numbers in the district. Suffice it to say that the numbers aren’t exactly friendly to Democrats – we can’t imagine that Hudgins and his gang of thugs had that development in mind. Any candidate who wants to run and win in this district as a Democrat is going to have to do the legwork, identify the opinion leaders, and convince the voters that electing a Democrat isn’t going to be the end of the world.

The bottom line is that this election is going to be a referendum on Ralph Hudgins and the “leadership” that he has provided. Nonetheless, anyone running against Ralph cannot expect to run successfully on a platform of all-Hudgins-all-the-time. They’ll have to frame this election as a referendum not just on the arrogance of one state senator, but on the arrogance of the GOP majority since they took control of Georgia’s government. That means that a smart candidate has alternatives on all of the major issues.

The biggest question of all is this: Is the race winnable? Absolutely it is. By all accounts, 2006 is shaping up to be a good year for Democrats; that dynamic will help, although how much help it will provide remains to be determined. In addition, there is a rising tide, even in areas that overwhelmingly supported Hudgins in years past, that ol’ Ralph is becoming more of an insider and less of a public servant. So yeah, the race is winnable by the right Democrat, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work and a near-perfect strategy.


bulletdawg said...

What are the numbers (partisan breakdown) in this district?

If there are enough Democrats and unhappy Republicans in this district, then Hudgins is ripe for a beating. Hudgins is the quintessential "inside" man, using his seat to enrich himself and his corrupt cronies. And to think, if he had worked a little harder in 1994, he'd be representing Athens and east Georgia in Congress.

Dawg Corleone said...

It's an overwhelmingly Republican district, though not so overwhelming as the new "east-side" district that stretches to Walton Co.

But I don't see any trouble for Ralph. Nice of the Banner-Herald, though, to give the Dems a free front-page recruitment ad. They'd have had to pay big bucks to buy it.

Jmac said...

It's not overwhelmingly Republican, but it does lean toward the GOP. But, again, in local politics it's all who you know, and Ralph has burned some bridges in Madison County. Though he'd probably more vunerable to a primary challenge rather than a loss to a Democrat challenger. Still, one thing Bullock had right was that a moderate Democrat could knock off Bullock because many Athenians will vote for the anti-Hudgens, while folks who aren't satisfied with Hudgens might be open to backing a moderate.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Hudgins endorsed Ralph Reed for Lt. Governor can't help his image.