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See Jane run the Democrats
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If you believe the story in Atlanta’s rapidly deteriorating major daily, then the Georgia Democratic Committee elected former state Rep. Jane Kidd as chairperson last weekend mainly to attract women voters to the Democratic Party.
That far-fetched idea must have been meant as a joke. Sure, some women have abandoned the Democrats. But losing a relative handful of female votes in the governor’s election is hardly the donkeys’ No. 1 problem. Making it OK for white Georgia males to say they vote Democratic is by far the most difficult and important task facing the new chair.
Kidd knows her way around Georgia politics well enough to understand that the gender of the obscure and often anonymous party chairperson has virtually nothing to do with voter attitudes. Besides, another capable woman, Sue P. Everhart, first vice chair of the Georgia GOP, is seeking the state Republican chair. Sue and Jane could cancel each other out if the chair’s gender came to mean anything.
The election of Kidd seems to point to better days for Democrats. The daughter of one of Georgia’s most accomplished governors (Ernie Vandiver), Kidd is a close ally of House Minority Leader Dubose Porter, said to be considering a bid for governor in 2010.
First, however, Kidd must turn her attention to raising money for the down-but-not-out party and preparing for a full-court press against incumbent GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss next year.
She’ll need every vote she can get  -  men and women  -  to take down Chambliss, who has just retuned as a delegate to this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he pointedly trivialized global warming. Georgia’s senior senator explained to fellow delegates that it is too soon to worry whether weather changes are “manmade” and “something we need to be totally alarmed about.” His dismissive remarks received international attention.
“I am proud to be a Georgian,” one well-known business leader e-mailed me after reading a New York Times account of Chambliss’ appearance. “Bless Saxby.”
If you’re looking for a political problem for Jane and the Democrats, the above proud Georgian’s attitude on Saxby epitomizes it.
Departing chair Bobby Kahn recognized the coming storm. In his farewell address to the Democratic Committee, Kahn won a standing ovation as he declared: “In addition to the presidential election, there is a Senate race. And just this week, Saxby Chambliss was one of 28 senators  -  all Republican  -  to vote to eliminate the federal minimum wage. Yes, we remember what he did against Max Cleland in 2002. But let’s look at what he’s done in the Senate since then. If we do that, we can send Saxby, and the bad knee that kept him out of Vietnam, back home.”
Insiders heard hidden meaning in Kahn’s remark  -  a nuanced critical shot at Cleland’s 2002 campaign handlers for failing to protect an “invulnerable” triple-amputee Vietnam vet incumbent from a draft avoider’s challenge.
P.S.: The Democratic Committee was slated to hear a harsh resolution condemning renegade Democrat Zell Miller for his attacks on the party that made him. Mysteriously, the critical resolution disappeared from the agenda just before the committee adjourned Saturday.
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For those in constant quest of a silver lining, here’s one possibly bright scenario. Suppose Democrats succeed in defeating Chambliss, and national Democrats capture a long-term solid majority of the Senate, would Johnny come marching home  -  to run for governor?
Without much hope of becoming a Washington power player, Johnny Isakson, now 62, might consider forsaking his post as senator-for-life to try for governor, a job he desperately wanted but failed to win in 1990.
Some observers believe he indeed still dreams of being governor, though a couple of ambitious Republicans, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Speaker Glenn “Romeo” Richardson, do not show much enthusiasm for the Isakson idea.
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Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, wasted his time last week in offering legislation to reform financing for judicial elections. Even as he unveiled his dead-on-arrival proposal, some Republicans planned for a third gold-plated challenge to a Georgia Supreme Court justice, this time to Bob Benham, a member of the high court since 1989.
This same GOP challenge team, supported by Gov. Sonny Perdue and Big Insurance, tried unsuccessfully last year to elect attorney Mike Wiggins to replace Justice Carol Hunstein. In 2004, they recruited former Judge Grant Brantley to challenge Chief Justice Leah Sears, who won in a landslide. The costly and disastrous bids of Wiggins and Brantley may make challenger recruitment very difficult in any drive to rid the court of the venerable Benham.     
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160, or e-mail:
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