For Republicans in Statehouse, this could be high tide
by Bill Kinney and Joe Kirby - Around Town Columnists
January 14, 2013 11:58 PM | 2690 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IS THE “REPUBLICANIZATION” of the Georgia Senate and House at its high-water mark? The answer is probably “Yes,” at least for the foreseeable future.

Look no further than last fall’s election results here in Georgia. All of the 38 state Senate seats won by GOP candidates were also won by Mitt Romney (and almost all of them by double-digit margins). And all 18 won by Democratic candidates also were won by President Obama (and with most of them giving him more than 70 percent of the vote). The margins in those 18 districts make it highly unlikely that a Republican could win them any time soon. Similar polarization exists in most Georgia House districts.

Republicans took control of the Senate after the 2002 election cycle when four Democrats jumped ship just days after the election, then won a majority of the House in 2004. The GOP has controlled the House since 2004.

Critics complain that the reapportionment process in recent decades (with a big assist from ever-more-precise computerized mapping programs) has tended to draw districts that maximize the number of voters of a given party, and fewer and fewer districts that are anywhere close to evenly divided. With most political jurisdictions now made up mostly of voters of one party, there’s less impetus than ever for political compromise. Elected officials who try to build bridges risk alienating their party’s base, and if the majority of a district’s voters are part of that base, it makes more sense politically to play to that base than it does to seek compromise.

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COBB’S legislative delegation is 21-members strong for this session, with six senators and 15 House members. Makeup-wise, Cobb Republicans hold a 4-2 majority in the county’s Senate delegation and 9-6 majority in the House.

Cobb’s delegation is slightly smaller than a decade ago, when thanks to several multi-member districts (declared unconstitutional in 2004) we had 23 members representing parts of the county. The number has declined even though the county’s population has grown from 607,000 in 2000 to 688,000 in 2010.

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THIS YEAR’S SESSION also is notable in that it marks the first time in Cobb’s history that three of its districts that are “all-Cobb” (as opposed to including part of Cobb and part of another county) are being represented by African Americans. They are Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell), first elected in 2002 and whose district has been majority black since a court-ordered redistricting in 2004; Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Mableton), who unseated entrenched white Democrat Don Wix in 2010; and freshman Rep. Michael Smith (D-Fair Oaks), who was elected last year to succeed retiring white Democrat Terry Johnson.

THERE WERE DROPPED JAWS and no shortage of confused looks on faces Wednesday afternoon when the Cobb County School Board decided to elect its two newest members to serve as chair and vice chair for 2013. New Chair Randy Scamihorn and vice Chair Brad Wheeler, both retired Cobb Schools educators elected to the board last year, were sworn in at 3:30 p.m. and elected to their new seats at 5:15 p.m.

No one could recall a political rookie ever being handed such a leadership position right off the bat in Cobb.

“It’s like your Dad handing you the keys to his Mercedes the day you get your Learner’s Permit and saying ‘See ya!’” remarked one politico afterward.

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SCAMIHORN told the Journal after the meeting that he had “been approached” prior to Wednesday about the possibility of being chairman, but would not say by whom.

Meanwhile, Wheeler had a deer-in-the-headlights look after the meeting and was overheard wondering to someone, “What have I gotten myself into?”

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THE 4-2 VOTE for Scamihorn and Wheeler (with board member David Morgan abstaining) put the board’s internal politics on full display.

Veteran member Tim Stultz, who had said he was interested in being chair, could line up only one other vote, that of Kathy Angelucci.

And an unhappy-looking Morgan — who never outright told the Journal that he was interested but said he would be “honored” if chosen, and who served as vice chair last year — didn’t even get a nomination. Morgan’s candidacy no doubt was hurt by last year’s MDJ stories recounting how he had worked in secret with Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa to open a charter school in south Cobb with his wife, state Rep. Alisha Morgan — even though he had cast the deciding vote against the system’s support for what would have been a competing charter school.

ATTENDEES at the Cobb Republican Party’s popular first Saturday breakfast will henceforth be able to sleep in a bit later. At the Jan. 5 meeting, Chairman Joe Dendy asked the 120 audience members if they would like to start future breakfasts at 9 a.m., an hour later than they currently get under way. About half the audience members raised their hands.

Dendy then asked who wants to continue starting the meetings at 8, with the other half of the room raising their hands. Finally, Dendy suggested starting the meetings at 8:30, to which no one objected.

Dendy then smiled and turned to the Journal reporter in attendance and joked, “I don’t want to see anything in the paper about compromising. Here in the Republican Party, that’s a nasty word.”

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U.S. SEN. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) will be the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s “Eggs & Issues” Breakfast sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce at the Georgia World Congress Center. East Cobb’s Isakson, a newly appointed member to the Senate Committee on Finance, will give a legislative update and speak on the impending debt ceiling debate.

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A RECEPTION for new Cobb State Court Judge Marsha Lake will be from noon-2 p.m. Friday in Courtroom 2C.

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PEOPLE: Senior VP David Bottoms of The Bottoms Group; Executive Director Amanda Seals of the Board of Regents; Assistant Vice President and Chief of Staff Lynn Durham of Georgia Tech; and Executive Director Stephen Loftin of the Cable Television Association of Georgia, all of Cobb, have been named to the Leadership Georgia Class of 2013. The program selects 63 participants from around the state who visit five Georgia communities (including Marietta) during the year to exchange ideas on important issues.

THE MARIETTA KIWANIS CLUB, the city’s largest civic club at more than 250 members, is mulling whether to move its weekly meetings to First United Methodist Church of Marietta from the Marietta Hilton/Conference Center, where it has met since the late 1990s. Among the reasons cited for considering such a move are the meal costs charged by the two locations.

The Marietta Rotary and Marietta Metro Rotary clubs, which also meet at the Hilton, recently considered moving as well. Marietta Rotary’s board voted to stay put, but with a dues increase, while the Metro Rotary decided to wait until spring to decide.

The Marietta Kiwanis will vote on the move at its Jan. 24 meeting. An informal sampling of opinion finds members split on whether to go or stay.

BOOK BEAT: Smyrna atheist, ACLU official and frequent MDJ letter-to-the-editor writer Ed Buckner has authored a new book. It’s titled “In Freedom We Trust: An Atheist’s Guide to Religious Liberty” (Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY) co-authored with his son, Michael Buckner. Its thesis is that the U.S. is and should remain a free country and not a Christian nation.

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THE NEW YEAR’S first Martinis & Music event at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art will be 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Friday. Featured will be the music of Big Band/Swing artist Douglas Cameron and two art exhibitions: “Yarbrough 53.9 Years and Still Unpredictable” and “Vignettes of America.” Admission is $8, says director Sally Macaulay.

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