Sonny Perdue has his work cut out for him. Unless he can convince newly elected Democratic state senators to switch parties, our new Republican governor will need to work with a General Assembly totally controlled by Democrats.

Politics in Atlanta take an interesting turn next January with the election of the first GOP governor since 1872. The veteran legislator from Middle Georgia surprised everyone by beating Democrat Roy Barnes, who had the advantages of more money and the incumbency. Democrats in the House also will be choosing a new leader with the defeat of House Speaker Tom Murphy.

It's clear Georgians split their votes between parties Tuesday, keeping some Democrats in office such as Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, Attorney General Thurbert Baker and a majority of legislators while rejecting others such as Barnes and Sen. Max Cleland.

We urge Perdue to consider those split votes when pressing his agenda to seek a referendum on the state flag or to derail education reform. Taylor was as much a supporter of those initiatives as Barnes. Perhaps Barnes' ouster had more to do with how he was perceived as dictatorial.

We think it's a bad idea to push for a vote on the flag issue. It would reopen old racial wounds and blemish the image of our state. As for education, despite some flaws, reform needs more time, and it strongly reflects President Bush's ideas.

We like Perdue's proposals to hire an inspector general to find waste in state government and to eliminate income taxes on non-wage income for senior citizens.

Overall, we urge him and the Democrats returning to Atlanta to find the common ground that will bring compromise and move Georgia forward. As a former Democrat, Perdue certainly understands two-party politics. We also urge support for him by both parties.



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