Primaries Are Nasty, Expensive, And Divisive, But Better Than The Alternative

Georgia Democratic Party Chair Mike Berlon got himself into a kerfuffle by saying he’s trying to clear the field on the Democratic side of the U.S. Senate race.

“We no longer can afford to have these party primaries where we take six or seven Democrats and run them against each other and there’s nothing left but smoke and ruin in the end,” he said. “This time around, we’ve worked very hard to make sure that when the decision is made, these two candidates talk to each other and clear the field so we can move forward.”

As you might imagine this drew objection from a number of Democrats.

As a former County Chairman for the GOP I understand the desire to avoid primaries. During my tenure Bob Barr moved to Duluth to challenge John Linder for Congress. It was a bruising affair that took a long time for our local Party to move past. That being said, primaries are a valuable and necessary way for the public to pick their leaders.

I’ve always objected to Party Chairman at any level getting involved in primaries. Voters pick the nominees for their respective Parties and it’s the job of the Party to get those people elected. Voters shouldn’t cede their role in that process to Party insiders – ever.

I realize Mr. Berlon might be loathe to take advice from a Republican, but he’d be better off backing away from this and let Congressman Barrow and Michelle Nunn work this out on their own.

20 comments

  1. ryanhawk says:

    “I’ve always objected to Party Chairman at any level getting involved in primaries.”

    For strictly local races (i.e. county commissioner) I agree with the county chairman staying out of it. But in state and federal races, especially those that cross county lines, if the Governor, Lt. Governor, House Speaker, State Rep, etc… show up and take sides why should the local GOP not do likewise?

    • Apples and oranges.

      It’s the job of the Republican or Democratic Party to get their nominees elected. That’s not in the job description of an elected official.

      • ryanhawk says:

        Says who?

        It is most certainly NOT the job of elected officials to perpetuate the incumbent protection racket by taking sides with the incumbent in contested primaries. That is not what you were elected to do, though most of you do it.

        The job of GOP chairman (at state, district, and county level) also should include “developing the bench” and “moving the ball forward” by recruiting good candidates to run and supporting them when they do. That may mean they take sides in a contested primary. Many chairmen do it in their personal capacity and rightly so. They know far more about the qualifications of the candidates than do regular voters. The only thing they can’t do at present is use their official capacity to support a candidate in a primary.

      • You touched on one issue in your comment. The person becomes “our” nominee, though we really had nothing to do with the selection. Other people, including legislators, endorse, support, and raise money for a candidate, and then they become “ours” after the primary. I will touch on another issue below.

      • Ken says:

        Buzz,

        We’ve had congressional district chairmen not seek re-election because they believed they were so hog-tied that they could not take action to benefit the party.

        Example: Let’s say a front-runner for Georgia governor had a reputation for less than upstanding relationships with the professionals he regulated in his elected capacity in a certain, lesser state-wide office. He might have an unusual name that sticks with people and because he had been re-elected to the lesser position many times his name recognition was very high.

        Let’s further assume that many party leaders knew of his transgressions but that the general public and the vast majority of people who would vote in the GOP primary were unaware. Not everyone might see the Atlanta TV stations reports on the politician’s alleged illegalities. Most of the state does not see the stations who might do actual reporting on officials who are less than ethical.

        So, do the county and district chairmen grit their teeth and silently pray that this candidate who might ruin the party and the state is defeated or do they take action to save their state and their party?

        Color me curious.

  2. greencracker says:

    The party trying to bypass tearing itself apart in a primary? Say it ain’t so!! Next thing, Galloway’s going to report that this actually happens _already_ in _both_ parties. Even grown-ups have to learn to wait their turn, lol.

  3. Another issue that really needs to be addressed is the length of time between a primary/runoff and the general election. In GA-12 last year we had a runoff election that ended on August 21 and was certified on September 4. We had 8 weeks to shift from a Primary to a General, while Rep. Barrow had months on end to raise money, campaign, etc. for the General.

    It really would be nice to be done six months before the General election. It gives people the opportunity to recover from the Primary.

  4. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    “Georgia Democratic Party Chair Mike Berlon got himself into a kerfuffle by saying he’s trying to clear the field on the Democratic side of the U.S. Senate race.”

    …No comment (just shaking my head in pity).

  5. Stefan says:

    It would be great if the Democrats could aid their chances in this race by a) keeping their candidate pristine through the primary, b) spending their research resources on the other side rather than the primary opponent, but the party has neither carrots nor sticks to make this happen.

  6. Brett says:

    The most attention getting item in my friend’s post is his use of the word “kerfuffle.” Such command of the language leads one to attribute credibility to the balance of the post. In as much as I was a Linder supporter during Barr v Linder, I am inclined to do so anyway.

  7. Raymond McKinney says:

    At one time I wholeheartedly agreed, the last thing I wanted to see was some elected official or State party telling me who my candidate was. In the perfect world a group of well intended candidates would get together and on equal footing, campaign, debate, and provide the voting public ample opportunity to choose who best represented them. In that world voters would take the time to vet all of the candidates and cast a ballot based on the candidates qualities, experience, and positions not on the campaign color, logo, or “most effective” mailer design.

    This is not the perfect world. As a former candidate, I’ve seen first hand how the system does work or not work depending on your point of view. What the public sees and what really goes on are two very different things. I have recently advocated to my local party officials that there is a hybrid option that could work at the local or even district level.

    I do believe that the choice must remain at the local level but I believe there is a better way to produce a qualified viable candidate.

  8. Mrs. Adam Kornstein says:

    Mike Berlon says….. well you lost me after that.

    Zero that comes out of his mouth or hind quarters is of much interest to anyone, Democrat, Libertarian or Republican.

    About the only one listening to his drivel is his Political Director from which his and all future jobs depend.

  9. seenbetrdayz says:

    Caucuses do seem more exciting.

    Then again, they require people to think, and interact, and debate with each other on a local level. And if you’re going to tell Joe the Georgian that he has to do anything more in politics than watch TV, slip a card in a slot, and tap on a screen in a secluded booth, well, you’re asking an awful lot of people.

  10. Michael Silver says:

    I’m curious who Berlon wants the field cleared for. Michelle or Barrow? Michelle’s track-record building and running non-profits is quite impressive. Its quite the success story and with her father’s support, she could be a very serious contender.

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