If you haven’t heard yet, State Representative Jim Cole, the Governor’s Floor Leader in the House, has been appointed Secretary of State.
Jim is a fine individual. I don’t know him super well, but have had several encounters with him over the years. My wife is a big fan. At a Fred Thompson event last year, Jim and his wife stood between my wife and the crowd for an hour providing a buffer for my wife. She loathes crowds.
I have not a word critical to say of Jim Cole. In fact, we chatted on the phone briefly this afternoon. He’s a good guy of good character and also a successful small businessman.
I do, however, feel sorry for him.
First, the Governor does not have a very good track record of appointing people to elected positions who then survive the election. In fact, in the judiciary, appointment by the Governor has frequently been a death sentence for candidates.
Second, there are two men running for the Secretary of State’s job already. Everyone thought the Governor would be wise (hahahahahahaha) and appoint a care taker with a massive amount of experience relevant to the job, particularly relevant to dealing with the U.S. Department of Justice. See e.g. Anne Lewis, the no brainer choice for an outstanding caretake Secretary of State.
Brian Kemp already has a huge statewide base of support. While Doug MacGinnitie has a resume tailor made for the job, Kemp has been establishing his bona fides for the job for over a year — including going to every board of elections meeting save one.
Neither Brian nor Doug is going to get out because of this. In fact, I suspect they through surrogates are going to be emboldened to attack the Governor. For those of you still under the delusion that Governor Perdue is still tight with the Republican base in the state, you’ll finally see what a lot of the rest of us have seen for awhile — the base no longer views Perdue as one of them.
Jim Cole is going to have to seriously fight against two guys who have been in the game for a heck of a lot longer and who both now have much better name id across the state. And he is going to do so as a relative unknown with no clear qualifications for or experience related to the job. He may and, I think, does have it, but he’ll have to work hard to share the info.
Looks very much like I could have spoken too soon here on this one. If so, this could be really interesting for other fall out from the appointment in other areas. One of the two candidates will probably drop out. One will stay in.
Third, this opens up a special election for Jim Cole’s seat. It’s a seat that was entrenched in Democrat hands for a long time until Cole won. But there is no guarantee that this seat will stay with the GOP. The special election will expend taxpayer dollars needlessly. The GOP and Democrats will both spend money to fight over the seat that could be better spent elsewhere. Party operatives are already emailing me pissed about this.
Fourth, while we have a long and rich tradition of Secretaries of State presiding over their own re-elections, Georgia’s first Republican Secretary of State just announced her resignation because, in light of the current ethical problems of the GOP’s good old boy network, she thought she should be above even the appearance of impropriety in presiding over issues directly affecting her election.
Cole, so closely affiliated with the Governor, is going to have to overcome the notion that he is the Governor’s errand boy and not an independent Secretary of State outside of the good old boy network that has too frequently of late caused the GOP problems.
There may be some oddly good news for Karen Handel in this. A lot of people have been treating her race as some sort of referendum on her relationship with the Governor. She now has the opportunity to distance herself from him via a carefully crafted statement on the appointment and Cole now makes a better target for those wanting a referendum on the Governor. After all, Handel got the job via election, not selection.
The downside though, for Handel, is also clear. If Cole turns out to be ineffective or the Democrats pick up his legislative seat, the other gubernatorial candidates can say it would not have happened if Handel “hadn’t pulled a Palin.”