Nearly 800 delegates and alternates from all over the state were in attendance at the Democratic Party of Georgia 2010 convention in Athens, Georgia this weekend. The theme of the Convention and for the party going into this year’s general election is Make Georgia Work. Current legislators, legislative and constitutional nominees and party brass drove home the theme throughout the day – job creation and change from the way things are “not working” now under GOP leadership in the state were re-iterated by nearly every speaker.
Official party business and votes were taken during the Saturday morning session. The afternoon featured as full slate of Democratic legislative candidates for state and federal office as well as candidates for state constitutional offices (Secretary of Sate, Commissioner of Agriculture, etc) . All current state senators, representatives and nominees were brought to the stage for recognition followed by current constitutional officers. Following these recognitions was the introduction of current Labor Commissioner and U.S. Senate candidate, Michael Thurmond who kicked the convention into high gear.
With references to his sharecropper father and generations of sharecroppers in his family, Michael Thurmond made clear the point that he “knows how to do much with little.” His speech, peppered with campaign staples (education, jobs, equality) and Biblical references to Isaiah 40:31 and the story of David and the Giant, the “sharecropper with a law degree” whipped the crowd into a frenzy. At times, fiery Baptist preacher, other times seasoned politician, Thurmond whipped the crowd of Democrats into a frenzy. Thurmond, a native of Athens came out as the bonafide rock star of the convention and very well could have been the “headliner” as he lit up the crowd in right in his home town.
After Thurmond, two U.S. Congressional candidate/nominees and one incumbent addressed the convention. Frank Saunders running for U.S. House of Representatives District 3, will face incumbent Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland who in Saunders words is the “do nothing” congressman. District 3 is southwest of I-20 and includes the cities of Carrollton, Peachtree City, La Grange and Thomason. Russell Edwards, running for District 10 against Republican incumbent Paul Broun, had no shortage of mud to sling against his opponent. District 10 covers a corner of Northeast Georgia which borders North and South Carolina and includes the cities of Toccoa, Athens, and Thomson. Incumbent Congressman John Barrow of District 12, used an Adlai Stevenson reference to non-working government and Republicans who once in office make it so. Barrow fill face Republican and Tea Party Express endorsed candidate Ray McKinney. District 12 is southeast of I-20 and includes the cities of Augusta, Milledgeville, Statesboro and Savannah.
At the conclusion of the Federal candidate nominees addresses, the Constitutional candidate/nominees arrived at the podium and included:
Ken Hodges – Attorney General
Georgiana Sinkfield – Secretary of State
Darryl Hicks – Commissioner of Labor
J.B. Powell – Commissioner of Agriculture
Mary Squires – Commissioner of Insurance
Keith Moffett – Commissioner of Public Service
Joe Martin – State School Superintendant
The final two speakers of the day were Carole Porter, the candidate/nominee for Lieutenant Governor and former governor, current candidate/nominee Roy Barnes. Porter, a first time candidate but no stranger to politics is the wife of Georgia House Representative/Minority Leader and former gubernatorial candidate Dubose Porter of Georgia House District 143. Porter spoke on the schism between what Republicans claim is important (jobs, family values, education) and what their actions bear out (cuts to education, loss of jobs).
Former Governor Roy Barnes was in full-on campaign mode, seasoned, articulate, with the strongest, most emphasized point of his platform being the resurgence of the importance of education in Georgia and the need for change from current leadership. He ended with the a story about the how governor’s race can impact the financial future of a state. He spoke of the emergence of the “New South” in the early sixties and what state would become the beacon for progress in the south. Alabama was thought to be that beacon with a booming economy driven by steel and the emergence of corporate regional offices in Birmingham. However it would not be so, Alabama elected George Wallace as governor, at that time a segregationist stalwart, Georgia elected Carl Sanders who obeyed the rule of law. The economy of Georgia blossomed, while corporations fled Alabama. For Barnes, the state of Georgia is in the same position now. Georgia faces the fate of Alabama, while North Carolina can become the beacon of the new south? The voters will decide.
The Democratic Party of Georgia convention, was free of fireworks and signs, was full of supporters, up and coming politicos as well as long time veterans. With Democratic polling numbers weak at best and the surge of the Tea Party, in a red state, the party faces an uphill climb. The convention served as a boost to energize the party’s base and move it forward to the fall elections and in the minds of Democrats, a time to Make Georgia Work again after eight years of Republican domination.