It’s a nasty political fight with no-holds barred and kicking, biting, gouging and low blows galore – and no Democrats are involved. It’s the battle for control of the Georgia Senate. Following the national example, Georgia Republicans formed a circular firing squad last year and commenced firing and never slackened until the session was over.
The past few peaceful months for the combatants have been spent re-loading and apparently preparing for further embarrassment in 2012. One indicator is that the sales of red rubber noses, big floppy shoes and frizzy orange wigs have skyrocketed. When the Georgia Senate convenes with Lt. Governor Cagle as its nominal head, the appropriate theme music will be Send in the Clowns.
The only thing protecting Cagle and various Georgia Senators is the relative lack of attention paid by Georgia citizens and the fact that most Georgians neither know nor care who these people are. If the people of this state stop long enough to study the sorry mess that calls itself a legislative body then all bets are off in the local and state elections.
While The Columbus Leger-Enquirer has an excellent interview with Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, touching on many subjects of interest, the real news is not in the headline. The real news is Cagle’s take on the continuing power struggle between himself and the majority of the Georgia Senate. From the story:
The Senate will continue to operate under a leadership structure implemented last session that forces Cagle to share power with other GOP leaders, but Cagle maintains that he is still head of the chamber.
“The leader in the Senate is the lieutenant governor,” said Cagle, who is still in charge of day-to-day operations, but no longer has the power to appoint committee chairs. “Last year illustrated that chaos occurs in the absence of leadership, and we really didn’t have leadership last year. This year is going to be very, very different. We’re going to be far more engaged and far more active because, quite candidly, the experiment last year was not successful.”
Cagle said the current leadership structure is hurting the Senate, and pointed out that no major legislation originated in the Senate last year. He said the issue is not about him, but about preserving the institution.
The amazing thing about this quote is that Cagle publicly proclaims himself to be “the leader” and then bemoans the lack of leadership. Let me sort out the confusion here: There is a difference between holding a position that has some authority and being a leader. Cagle has the position, but I’m awaiting a sign of leadership. Frankly, I’m not sure Casey Cagle could lead a group of sailors onto the campus of an all-women’s college after six months at sea.
While voters may not pay much attention now, a continued lack of accomplishment will draw the interest of voters. If Governor Nathan Deal or even members of the other legislative body are forced to get involved, then the press cannot ignore the continued Senate stalemate. This would be good news for Georgia’s citizenry whose legislature is being held hostage by egos, childish grudges and an addiction to power.
The struggle has even spread outside the Georgia Capitol building in the form of special election battles. It appears the two sides are using candidates as proxies in their ongoing struggle for potential supporters by funneling funds and support to different campaigns. From here, it looks as though the balance of power remains just where it was at the end of last year’s legislative session.
I don’t know if Lt. Governor Cagle has figured this out or not, but in ’14 he is at a disadvantage. Incumbent state senators are much better known to their individual constituencies than is the Lt. Governor. If he attempts to interfere in their races, he would likely be unsuccessful and lose political power and influence. On the other hand, the collective endorsements by a large group of state senators would carry much more influence. When it comes to the ballot box, this is not an even fight.
Let me make a modest recommendation: If these two groups are serious about making the Georgia Senate work, then they should get together, reach an agreement and hold a press conference that outlines the agreement. I will be happy if this happens, but on the bright side, if it fails I will have a lot to write about.
Do you think Dr. Phil does legislatures?