It appears that Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Chief of Staff John Watson has asserted a strong role in the re-election campaign and is calling the shots. Perdue’s 2002 campaign manager, Scott Rials, has formed his own consulting group and will be working on various statewide campaigns, which are expected to “dovetail” into the governor’s re-election campaign. Rials is also playing a leading role in Republican Gary Black’s campaign for agriculture commissioner. Perdue assistant Nick Ayers is now reportedly being called “the manager,” though his title has been executive director since 2003. Rials is seen by insiders to be the man largely responsible for the moves that helped Perdue rise above his GOP primary opponents in 2002…Rumors continue to circulate that Republican Robert Lamutt is considering throwing his hat into the race for Secretary of State. Lamutt, who fell just short in his bid for the GOP nomination for the 6th Congressional District (eventual winner Tom Price defeated Lamutt in a runoff), is said by insiders to have financially recovered from a campaign that was significantly self-funded in 2004. Thus far, Republicans Bill Stephens, the Senate majority leader from Canton, and Fulton County Commission Chair Karen Handel have both entered the race. Stephens is working hard to secure support from the party’s conservative base, while Handel brings her metro Atlanta core supporters into the fray. It remains to be seen if GOP activists become enthusiastic about either candidacy, enough to anoint a frontrunner in terms of fundraising or endorsements. Lamutt is said by insiders to be aligned with the Casey Cagle-David Schafer bloc in the state Senate, which is seen by many to be rivals to Stephens and his supporters. Cagle is seeking the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor…?
Here’s my two cents on the current status of our “hotbutton” races:
Tara, taradadadadada…Enter the Governorâ€™s campaign manager, his political director, et al. Arenâ€™t you folks excited about meeting with the Governorâ€™s high â€“ powered staff? Apparently, not quite as high powered as theyâ€™d have us believe. Interestingly enough, the above statements appeared in Bill Shippâ€™s column just a day or two after another Republican lobbyist (who shall remain unnamed) told me he sensed that John Watson was feeling unsettled. My source felt that before this time next year, Watson would resign in order to devote himself fully to the Governorâ€™s re â€“ election effort. I guess Watson isnâ€™t convinced of their power, status, or ability, either. Not convinced enough to let the â€œlollipop gang from the romper room on Roswell Roadâ€? (to borrow a phrase so glibly spoken by several operatives around the state) handle the direction of the campaign on their own. Is it a sign? Perhaps. I would tend to view it as a positive sign, though, rather than a negative, meaning, perhaps, that finally, someone is taking the situation outside metro Atlanta seriously, and finally going to devote some credible weight to rectifying it. Now, the true litmus test will be if the day to day operations of the campaign change as a result of Watsonâ€™s renewed focus and vigor. I predict the Governor still wins, although the risk alert is high â€