Today’s Courier Herald Column, which would be headlined with “Let The Wild Rumpus Start” if the deadline had been an hour later.
Today’s primary in Indiana is as good a time as any to begin to focus on the often forgotten Georgia general election primaries. Though many Georgians believe we’ve already had our primary, the President is not the only person on the ballot this year. Primaries for Congress, the state legislature, and many county level offices will be held July 31st.
These primaries generally occur mid-summer to encourage anyone that wants to go door to door to unseat an incumbent to think about days which are 95 degrees with 95 percent humidity. They are held when many Georgians are on vacation and thus can’t be bothered with the act of choosing local leaders. In short, it appears that the preference is that few should choose the even fewer who will govern us all.
Incumbents looking to Georgia’s primaries are slightly more nervous than usual. While most challenges are in the “rumor” category at this point, TEA Party activists reply with wry smiles when asked about potential challengers. They then generally recommend we all pay close attention the week of May 23rd when official qualifying begins. That’s when we’ll know which incumbents will face the unusual but growing challenges from within their own party.
We’ll learn a bit about the national mood this evening when today’s votes are counted in Indiana. Specifically, we learn if a Senator representing the status quo who was first elected the same year as Jimmy Carter will be re-elected or if Indiana Republicans prefer a TEA Party backed State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Lugar is behind in the latest polls and is widely expected to lose.
TEA Party activists got their first scalp in a primary last year, taking out Utah Senator Bob Bennett. Utah is again active with anti-incumbent fever as six term Senator Orrin Hatch facing a strong primary challenge from a 37 year old former State Senator named Dan Liljenquist.
Now the TEA Party with its deep roots in Georgia is looking at some Georgia races. Their coy responses to which are beginning to heighten sensitivity with a good number of incumbents.
While there are some announced Republican challengers at the Congressional level, the TEA Party’s Georgia focus on primaries appears to be at the level of the state legislature. TEA Party leaders are openly miffed at the stonewalling they experienced as they tried to include ethics reform as part of the 2012 Agenda. Killing all attempts to move a bill was bad enough, but the last hour attempt to seal some ethics violations from public record was salt in an open wound.
Strategically, the TEA Party realizes that those who benefit from Georgia’s broken ethics system are also the hardest to beat. They have the largest campaign accounts and control the tools that can be used to punish unsuccessful challengers. As such, they will look for races that are competitive to ensure they can take a scalp or two. Expect the Georgia Senate to be ground zero.
The Senate is unique in that it already has an unsettled
intra-party rivalry underway. While a truce was observed between Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and the majority of the Republican caucus who stripped him of his power during the 2012 session, it was made clear by both sides that the issue needed to be settled in this year’s elections. As such certain primary challenges are already baked in to the equation.
Central to the question of the Lt. Governor’s power is the Committee on Assignments. This is the body created by the Republicans in the Senate to appoint Committee Chairmen instead of allowing the Lt. Governor to do so.
One of the first acts of the newly created committee was to appoint a Senate Banking Chair who is being sued by the FDIC for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty in his role of director for a failed bank. A continuing act of omission is leaving a Rules Chairman in place who flauts Senate rules to the point of claiming expense reimbursements for travel he did not make – a violation of Georgia law.
There is enough entropy within the Senate Republican caucus that genuine primary challenges are probable, with taking out some entrenched incumbents quite possible.
Primary fights are the world series of political inside baseball, and it looks like Georgia is going to have a good game this year. Party politics is usually considered a team sport, up until the day a primary challenge is determined to be legitimate. Then, it quickly becomes every man for himself.
Added to the equation is that Lieutenant Governor Cagle isn’t on the ballot for two more years. Thus, he can sit back and watch the fireworks if he so chooses, or he can get involved without immediate repercussions if that is his preference. Either way, he’ll have a lot of free time on his hands to use or not use as he chooses.