First things first. I am a Democrat and I almost always support the Democratic candidate. I know most of the readers of this site are Republicans and do likewise. That’s what parties are for and in most races, people don’t know a lot about the candidates running and the fact that they share an allegiance to one party or another is what guides their vote.
But I wasn’t always a Democrat. When I graduated from high school in 1998, I made two youthful mistakes. The first one was attending Georgia Tech (let’s just say that I didn’t last too long there, wasn’t the right place for my 18 year old self to be). The second was signing up for the College Republican email listserv.
Like a lot of white kids from the ‘burbs, I pretty much followed the lead of my parents and friends’ parents and considered myself a moderate Republican. That summer I voted in the Republican primary for Mike Bowers on my dad’s advice. He had dealt in a business setting with Guy Millner and wasn’t a fan. That November, I voted straight ticket for the Republicans running including Sen. Paul Coverdell. I didn’t know a lot about Roy Barnes, but following up on my dad’s advice from the primary about Millner, I voted for Roy that year. I think for a lot of Georgians, Roy Barnes in 1998 was the last vote they cast for a Democrat. But for me it was my first.
As the years went on and I was maturing politically, I became increasingly turned off by the Republican party. They were obsessed with impeaching a President I thought was doing a good job, even though I hadn’t supported him. As a 12 year old I was an ethusiastic Perot “man”, as a 16 year old girls and cars seemed more important than the Presidential race. And not only was the impeachment turning me off, but the emails from the College Republicans had so little substance, they were mostly about protesting some Clinton cabinet official who happened to be landing at PDK that day. When the 2000 Presidential election rolled around, I was all for John McCain (at least the 2000 version). I thought George W. Bush was unprincipled and undeserving of the Presidency, and when I saw how the party establishment lined up behind him and how poorly McCain did in Georgia it finally clicked that the Republican Party of Georgia really didn’t have a home for people like me.
So as a 20 year old that was increasingly more and more into politics, I started looking to the state level. I have to confess, I once had to look up whether Barnes was a Democrat or a Republican, since he seemed to me like a pretty conservative guy who didn’t really ruffle too many feathers and I just wasn’t sure. But the more I learned about him, the more I liked him. He was trying, not always successfully, but at least trying to tackle the problems that Georgia had. Problems like education, transportation, modernization. In other words, the problems I cared about. And he seemed like a pretty smart guy. It’s a shame that in politics being smart is sometimes looked down upon, but it’s a trait that I personally value.
In 2002, I started working as a legislative intern and learned more than I could ever imagine about state government. It was after Roy had changed the flag, a move I strongly supported, and the Republicans could smell blood. They were taking what I thought were unprincipled stands if it meant political gain. Ideas they used to champion (such as eliminating teacher tenure) became opposition rallying cries once they passed through Roy Barnes’s lips. I was disgusted. As a naive 22 year old, I ran for State Rep in Dunwoody as a proud “Roy Barnes Democrat.” I was trounced, but the bigger disapointment on election night was that Roy Barnes, a conservative Democrat with principles had been upset by Sonny Perdue, a pretend Republican with none. I was devastated by that.
Fast forward to 2010. I’ve gone from a Democratic activist to a party operative to a campaign consultant. I do work for Roy’s campaign, and over the years I’ve gotten to know him on a first name basis. The 22 year old version of myself that was excited just to be in the same room as a state senator would probably faint if I told him that not only was Roy running for another term and had a chance to win, but that I was playing an integral part in his campaign and was even one of his trusted advisers these days.
And do you know what I’d tell the 22 year old version of myself? I’d say, “You were right about Roy Barnes.” Not only is he one of the smartest politicians I’ve ever had the chance to know, but everything I believed back then is true. He’s a principled man who cares deeply about the state of Georgia and wants to see the parts of our state government that don’t work well improved while preserving the great things about our state that make living here so wonderful.
He’s also a dedicated family man, and that extends from his personal life to his business. Roy takes care of the people that take care of him, always has and always will. His is business partners with his daughter and her husband, and together they’ve built a successful law practice that also has a nursery in the basement for their children and grandchildren. Every day, Roy makes sure to visit with his grandchildren, and when I think about how overworked I am during election season and how little time I have, it’s a valuable reminder that when you start a family it’s important to make time for them, even when you’re running for something as important as Governor.
I’ve also gotten to know Roy’s other children, and they are all successful, honest and hard working adults. The kind of people I want to have a beer with at the end of the workday. Basically, he has raised exactly the kind of family that anyone my age will hope to have raised 30 years down the road from now. I’ve always thought that the quality of one’s children speaks volumes about the quality of their parents. And in the case of Roy, it’s one of the strongest arguments in his favor.
I believe if Roy Barnes is elected Governor, he is ready to work with the Republicans and Democrats in the legislature to get Georgia focused on common sense and bipartisan solutions to bring jobs, improve education, fix our transportation problems and finally get an answer to the water wars. And here’s one more important thing I believe. I believe that if Roy Barnes does NOT get elected Governor he will still have a full and rewarding life waiting for him. He is not running for Governor to fill any void or to profit from the position. He actually believes — and I agree — that Georgia has problems that need serious solutions and if elected he can work with others to seek them out.
As I’m often reminded on Peach Pundit by some of the other posters, Georgia is a Republican state and 2010 is a Republican year. Sam Nunn and Zell Miller might even have a hard time getting elected here this November. And like I said at the beginning of this post, I’ll almost always be for the Democrat in any race and any year. But I hope my fellow readers here on Peach Pundit and out in the rest of Georgia will really think and pray and that if they do, they can put party aside if need be and join me in supporting my friend Roy Barnes. He is someone who will put every ounce of energy into getting our state back on the right track over the next four years. And he’s ready to get started on Day 1.
I wish every voter in the state could meet Roy Barnes and get to know him as well as I have over these last ten years, but until then, I’m asking you to take my word on it. He’s the best man for the job of Governor this year.