A couple weeks ago I saw this AJC headline “Former Congresswoman Faces Possible Disbarment”. I knew before clicking that it would be my old boss, Denise Majette. I worked for her on her run for Senate in Communications, but once the campaign began in earnest, I was also her driver.
If you ever get the chance to work as the driver or body person for a state-wide candidate, do it. The Big Pig Jig, Barnesville Buggy Days, there is no end to the Georgia delights beyond the big cities.
Georgia is a big state and the schedule was often tight with events separated by large swaths of highway. I would drive while she slept. And once she fell asleep, I would drive as fast as I could (which wasn’t that fast, really, Crown Victorias being what they are) secure in the belief the Congressional license plates would keep us out of serious trouble. When we arrived at some event (Farm Day in Lumber City?) at which we were guaranteed to be late but I had delivered us to early, she figured it out and the next day removed the Congressional plates and replaced them with Georgia ones herself. She wasn’t one to take unfair advantage.
The entire campaign was like that. 2004 was Kerry-Bush, but for us it was Isakson-Majette. By believing she should run, she pissed off everyone. She angered her original supporters, who had delivered her Congressional win, who had worked so hard to help her defeat Cynthia McKinney who ended up winning the seat back. She pissed off state wide Democrats, who saw Cliff Oxford, who she defeated in the primary, as their best chance, and she took on Johnny Isakson, who was beloved. The only people excited about her decision to run for Senate were Cynthia McKinney’s crew, who despised Denise no matter what. Even her own staff were shocked by her decision.
Wherever we went we felt that anger. At a Halloween themed parade in Gwinnett County, we handed out candy, only for the parents to tell their kids not to take candy from us or instruct them to throw it back at us. Note: Sweettarts in the hands of a 14 year old with a good arm leave bruises.
But Denise believed she was right, she cared about issues. She believed she was the best person for the job. Few Georgians agreed. We knew we had to run a strong comparative campaign. We couldn’t raise much money, people laughed at our paper plates ad (contrasting our paper plates with Isakson’s 1k/plate fundraisers), but we gained few adherents. And in the end we got trounced.
But she believed in herself, and believed it was the right thing to do. It cost her not just her seat in Congress, but any friends who could help her afterward. So this woman who went from Workers Compensation Judge Majette, to Dekalb County Judge Majette, to Congresswoman Majette, was suddenly just Denise. And that lonely name ushered in a lonely existence. The last time I talked to her she called me for help. She wasn’t running for anything, just needed assistance. I offered what little I could, but what she needed was a time machine.
Several Georgia Congressmen are about to make the same decision that Denise made. Broun, Gingrey, Kingston, Price, almost all of them think they will be Georgia’s next Senator. Almost all of them are wrong. And when they lose the election, they will lose “Congressman” from in front of their names, and they will find out how many friends they really have. It might be fewer than they’d thought.