A prayer for Georgia: Wonderful stuff, this politics

Georgia Times Union

July 22, 2010
By Terry Dickson


BRUNSWICK - Say a prayer for us here in Georgia. We're back at the polls Aug. 10.

Democracy is wonderful stuff, but it has a side effect called politics.

Tuesday, Georgia had primary elections for state offices with the most candidates ever. There were more Democrats running for governor than you'll find at a Kennedy family reunion. That may be a slight exaggeration.

The biggest surprise was Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine's fall from front-runner to fourth in a field of seven Republican gubernatorial candidates. A week earlier, the question was who would make the runoff with him.

His opponents said he had taken two trips to the Academy Awards from someone he had helped in an insurance dispute.

Did voters care? Perhaps. The big thing may have been that Oxendine went at all. Georgians like a good movie, but most don't want to be around the people who make them.

There was also an awkward moment at a St. Simons Island restaurant. After Oxendine tasted his second glass of wine, he stalked off to the bar, a witness said. He later explained that the waiter had poured his second glass from a different bottle.

When it comes to drinks, a lot of folks are like me. We can tell you if our Coke is flat or if the sweet tea is old and that's about it.

Anyone who knows that much about wine probably can't relate to the average voter.

State Sen. Jeff Chapman finished a spot behind Oxendine, but wasn't distraught, saying all he'd lost was an election.

"It's a wonderful life. God's been good to me," he said.

"This isn't my first honorable discharge," he said of having served in the Georgia Air Guard.

He has a grandson, John Jeffrey Simmons, who is nearly 2. While most kids call their grandfather Grandpa or perhaps Gramps, young John Jeffrey clearly respects positions.

"He'll walk in the room and say, 'Senator,' " Chapman said.

Chapman carried Glynn, his home county, but frontrunner Karen Handel pulled nearly half as many votes. Chapman made some powerful enemies at home in hammering the selection of Linger Longer Communities for the redevelopment of Jekyll Island. He argued that Linger Longer, with strong connections to Gov. Sonny Perdue, was getting a sweetheart deal and would not pay the state enough for use of prime beachfront property.

The same people who praised Chapman for stopping a vote on the incorporation of St. Simons Island, lambasted him for questioning the deal.

"First, they dumped the cooler on me like I won a ball game," he said. "The Gatorade wasn't dry on my back before they were trying to burn me at the stake."

The Linger Longer deal died in the bad economy, and Jekyll found new developers. The island's governing authority said the new deals were far better than the one with Linger Longer.

So, Chapman was right.

And nobody came running with the cooler.