Monday, August 4, 2008

Reshuffling the GOP deck

I'm a bit late to blog on this item, but I'm familiar with many of the players, so here goes. Sen. Eric Johnson is going to run for Lt. Gov. in 2010. This is because Casey Cagle will be running for Governor, so the spot will be open. Everyone else in the State Senate will move up a slot in the pecking order, most likely, as Tommie Williams will move up to Senate President Pro-Tempore and Chip Rogers will move up to Majority leader. Sure, all these offices must actually go through elections, but I have a hard time seeing anyone else in the roles. The Senate has not had the fratricidal impulses of the House.

I hope that working in the bowels of the State Capitol for a couple of sessions gave me some insight into our political process and the players therein. One thing I learned is that it is entirely possible, in fact quite necessary, to respect members of the opposing party (in my case, Republicans). Sen. Eric Johnson and Sen. Tommie Williams fall into that category.

I disagree with almost everything they support, in terms of policy, but Sen. Johnson is one of the most deft politicians I have ran across. He was the Republican who always worried me the most, because he wasn't much of a grandstander and because he always got things done. When he had to play hardball, he usually let others get their hands dirty even when you knew he was pulling the strings. He didn't really lose his temper like Sen. Don Balfour or Rep. Glen Richardson, and for the most part didn't go out of his way to belittle members of the opposing party.

He has a sharp tongue, though, make no doubt about that. He is just smart enough to know that you sometimes need bi-partisan support and so he avoided a certain amount of unnecessary derision. For example, he was the Republican who saw the benefit to working with Kasim Reed when Atlanta's sewers were crumbling.

My reason for liking Sen. Williams is pretty simple. He supported street car legislation that I worked on, because his folks met and fell in love on Atlanta's streetcars. Like Sen. Johnson, he was also not a grandstander, and I always feel that makes one a much more effective legislator.

So, unlike the House, the Senate will likely stay under the leadership of smart, shrewd politicians. Even more so than Casey Cagle, these are the guys who appear moderate while pushing very conservative legislation. Sen. Johnson appears to be making school vouchers an issue for his campaign, which means it has a good chance of passing. He has a better sense of timing and public coalition building than Glenn Richardson, so I would be surprised if it didn't pass (unlike the GlennTax).

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