Georgia is about to start down a unique path. While it has been subjected to one party control for roughly 130 years, the control belonged to Democrats. On January 10, 2004, the Republicans take full control after capturing the State House in 2004.
In recent years, Democrats have allowed their face and voice to be that of rural Democrats who are most often white and conservative. Behind the scenes the Democrats gave broad powers to urban Democrats who tend to be very liberal and are not as white. With a court imposed legislative map, old guard Democrats who have represented rural areas for years were faced with new voters they had never met and the voters, having no allegiance, were wooed successfully by the Republicans. The balance of power shifted dramatically.
Now the battle will begin. The Republicans, generally from suburban and exurban areas, will rule both the State House and State Senate against a more experienced group of urban Democrats and the few remaining rural Democrats who have not yet switched to the Republican party. Incoming House Speaker Glenn Richardson hinted at how the new management will operate.
“We will ask: will it reduce the size of government; will it strengthen our traditional family structure; will it reduce the tax burden for our citizens; or will it increase personal responsibility? Unless proposed legislation answers yes to one of these questions, it will face a difficult course.”
If that is not bad enough for Georgia Democrats to hear, consider this:
“For us, government is not the instrument of change. Our role is to make sure that the private sector can function as efficiently as possible to address the needs of society. That’s what we’re going to try to do,” said Rep. Jerry Keen of St. Simons Island, the incoming Republican majority leader.
Republican Senate leaders, who have had two years to settle into their legislative management positions, view legislation through much the same lens.
“We try to look at issues as our Founding Fathers did – limiting government as much as possible and protecting societal foundations,” said Sen. Eric Johnson of Savannah, the ranking Republican in the chamber.
This will be a new era in Georgia. The concern will be whether voters will like rapid changes brought on by the new management. If the Republicans in Georgia learn the lessons of the Republicans in Washington from 1994, they should be competent and successful, which will be another blow to Democrats who view themselves as still competitive.