VALDOSTA -- In the wake of Tuesday's shocking Republican revolution are two parties: one giddy over unexpected success and one wondering how to salvage what six months ago appeared to be an unsinkable ship.
Republicans made greater than expected gains in a midterm election that was largely a referendum on national security and George W. Bush. Many insiders expected Saxby Chambliss to dethrone Max Cleland and most thought the governor's race would be close. Very few, however, thought Georgia would be so caught up in the GOP groundswell that swept across the nation.
Sonny Perdue dropped incumbent Gov. Roy Barnes and his $20 million war chest by a full 6 percentage points, and Republicans also made gains in the state Senate. Unofficial results show Democrats losing three seats, dropping their overall majority to just four seats at 30 to 26. Two state Senate races are likely headed for recounts with each party leading a race.
But Bill Fuqua, first vice chairman of the Lowndes County Republican Party, made a bold statement Wednesday when he predicted the state Senate would be in GOP hands by the time Perdue takes office in January.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see that in January the Republican Party has control of the senate," he said, further explaining that four senators are currently in high-level talks about a shift in party affiliation. Fuqua was Perdue's campaign manager for Lowndes County.
Locally, returns largely mirrored state results as a majority of Lowndes County voters backed the eventual winner in every race except one public service commission race. Even the voting percentages were close to the final statewide tally.
State Sen. Tim Golden said he did not think Tuesday's results would be a huge blow to either his party or to a local legislative delegation comprised entirely of Democrats.
"What I'm calling for is leadership, not partisanship," he said. "Quite frankly nothing has changed. My agenda will be same it has always been. Tim Golden's principles have not changed from 12 years ago when I was elected. I'll do what I've always done.
"I plan to reach out to Gov. Perdue and make him a success because if he's a success, Georgia is a success. You won't see Tim Golden involved in partisan politics. It will be the same agenda I've always had: pro business, level-headed leadership, which is nothing new."
Golden said he would also continue to champion Valdosta State University and Valdosta Technical College in the appropriations committee. He also said health care and small business support would be priorities.
Golden was noncommittal on the flag issue. Perdue campaigned on putting the issue to a referendum.
"I'm going to wait and see what the governor actually comes with," Golden said. "I'd rather not comment on it, because I'm not sure. All I can tell you is that the flag is such a divisive issue, I'd hate to see us go through that again, but it's something we may have to wait and evaluate when the time comes. The flag is a divisive issue on both sides."
Golden said he felt there was plenty of room in the General Assembly for two agendas.
"Some of the things I'm interested in pushing, I think you'll find a lot of people on the other side of the aisle will embrace and endorse. More so now than ever," he said.
Fuqua said he felt Tuesday's results were indicative of a non-ballot referendum on Roy Barnes. He said Georgia voters overwhelmingly rejected Barnes' stance on education reform, the manner in which the flag was changed and the Democratic-led redistricting process.
"I think you had three underlying issues that were a referendum on Roy Barnes and his performance. It is quite obvious that a lot of people in Georgia did not agree," he said.
Like Golden, Fuqua said he felt both parties' agendas could get a fair shake in a capitol split between parties for the first time since 1872.
"I know Sonny Perdue personally. Sonny has the ability to work for all people. I don't think it really matters to us. If they're really sincere about improving Georgia, I think Sonny will embra
ce them and he will listen. ... I think the days of bitter partisan politics in Georgia may come to an end," he said.
Golden said he would encourage those on his side of the aisle to form a workable coalition.
"Let's give Gov. Perdue the benefit of the doubt," he said. "I hate to prejudge the guy. I think it would be premature on my part and very irresponsible on my part to comment on an agenda I haven't even seen. He's the governor of Georgia and will be for four years. It is incumbent on all of us to give him the benefit of the doubt."
To contact reporter Bill Roberts, please call 244-3400, ext. 245.
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