A Tale of Two Districts: Winners and Losers in the Senate leadership battle

In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.

– Hunter S. Thompson

Read more:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/h/hunter_s_thompson.html#ixzz1fqj2kVko

News of come-from-behind wins by both Senator-elect John Wilkinson in SD 50 and Senator-elect Mike Crane in SD 28 have met a variety of spins from tasseographers.

Drilling down into the numbers, it becomes apparent that the paths to victory of Wilkinson and Crane were significantly different.

In SD 28, Crane gained 1874 votes in Coweta County from the Special Election to the Runoff; his margin of victory was 1859 votes. With Coweta County contributing nearly 74% of the votes in the Runoff, Crane’s victory was driven by his consolidation of Coweta County votes between  the Special and the Runoff.

In SD 50, Wilkinson’s victory represented was more widely-based, as Wilkinson increased his vote totals in every county without a dramatic increase in any single county.

Beyond the individual winners in the contest lies the question of which Senate faction won or lost.

The spin among politicos and pundits is predictable; some who favor Senate leadership or individual members of leadership are calling it a draw, while Cagle-partisans declare victory. Some believe that the Republican leadership has been damaged. No one calls it for leadership.

At this point, no one can say conclusively who financed the anonymous attacks against Wilkinson in SD 50 and against Duke Blackburn in SD 28, but the fact that the Senate leadership is likely to be collaterally-damages illustrates the real problem with anonymous independent expenditures. Such dirty tricks often backfire, even against innocent bystanders.

In the comments here on Peach Pundit, former State Rep. Rick Austin denied any involvement in the anonymail, and I believe him. But it’s clear that they attacks fell short of their intended target and damaged Austin’s campaign. In the same manner, they are likely to take a collateral toll on some of the Republican Senators who contributed nearly $12,000 to Austin.

This may or may not be fair, but the problem with anonymail like we saw in the Senate contests is that just like it’s difficult for the target to prove who’s targeting them, it’s also difficult to prove who was innocent of sending them.

In my analysis, the collateral damage to Senators who backed Austin moves the contest for Senate control in a direction favorable to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. It may also reinvigorate those who oppose Senate  leadership without actually favoring Cagle.

Ultimately, the big losers from the rise of anonymail are those of us who believe ultimately in the process, and the voters of Georgia. Last night I wrote a post that incorrectly identified calls by former Gov. Roy Barnes as being spoofed. I leapt to that assumption because events in the election had led me to disbelieve everything and assume that all communications that late in the game were somehow fraudulent.

With weary voters already suspicious of the motives of elected officials, nothing has happened in these elections to enhance their trust of elected officials. This corrosion of trust serves neither voters, nor our state or elected officials.

An incisive comment in yesterday’s thread about a new candidate announcing in SD 6 highlights the extent that Senate elections are now less about voters and candidates candidate than about who holds the reins in the State Senate: “ the real question is, ‘Pro-Cagle or Anti-Cagle?’ That comes even before party or political philosophy these days.” And that diminishes voters and our Grand Old Party.


  1. birdfan says:

    Todd – It seems to me that the State Senators and House Representatives who supported Rep. Rick Austin’s campaign were probably more because they’ve worked with him at the State Capitol for the last few years. Your use the election results to declare winners and losers of how the State Senate chambers balances its powers makes you appear completely biased! Or you’re just reading way too much into the results of the districts voters. Based upon their campaigns, it sounds like Wilkinson or Austin would do a fine job representing the voters of the District. Congratulations to Senators-elect Wilkinson and Crane.

  2. Todd Rehm says:

    Sure, there may be great reasons for GOP Senators to support Rick Austin that had nothing to do with caucus politics. My point was that the anonymous attack mail and phone calls makes it impossible for those Senators to prove that they had nothing to do with that garbage. And easier for their opponents to argue that they did.

  3. debbie0040 says:

    I think your analogy is wrong and it appears that you are extremely slanted in your analogy. The group that will be damaged are the Lt. Governor and his Senate allies that cut a deal with the liberal democrats. I can assure that will not be forgotten next year when many incumbents may face primary opposition.. These alliances with Democrats will have reprecussions next year. some under the Gold Dome will sink as low as they have to to grab power.

    I think the issue over the Lt. Governor’s role should be settled by the GA Supreme Court. According the GA Constitution, he only presides over the Senate. The Lt. Governor has more power now than the Constitution allows..

    The election last night was wash -period.

    • brasstownhigh says:

      Debbie – anyone that reads your posts can see you’re clearly more “slanted” than anyone. You throw around comments like “I can assure that will not be forgotten next year” as if you speak for all Georgians.

      I’m not sure which version of the Constitution you have handy – but the real Georgia Constitution says the Lieutenant Governor “shall be the President of the Senate” – not preside over it.

    • seekingtounderstand says:

      Debbie: Please pay attention to the Dunhahoo race in Hall county. They put in a fake tea party canidate to draw votes off and get Cagles church buddy voted into office. The fake canidate said he was happy as could be that he kept a conservative from getting into the run offs. He actually bragged that this was his purpose in the Gainesville Times.

      WATCH OUT FOR FAKE CANIDATES THAT ARE giving a peoples message to draw a few hundred votes and give the CAGLE/Democrates supporters, DUNAHOO, a free ride.
      Cagle also split the south hall on the voting map off from Hall County because we are more conservative voters. Talk about back stabbing the people…………this takes the cake.
      He will be remembered.

      • DoubleDawg3 says:

        Seeking, you realize that Dunahoo is James Mills’ brother-in-law, right? The same James Mills that the “real” Tea Party loved so much and was viewed as an ultra-conservative member of the House.

    • Howard Roark says:

      “The group that will be damaged are the Lt. Governor and his Senate allies that cut a deal with the liberal democrats.”

      That is laughable.

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    The corrosion of public trust, anonymail simply being a new tool, has been GOP strategy for 30 years. The chickens are coming home to roost.

  5. birdfan says:

    Opponents will claim what they wish. However, your original post and your response sounds like you have clearly chosen a side on how the GOP State Senate handles their Chamber responsibilities and control.

    First, In your response you assuming guilt towards elected GOP State Senators by calling on “those Senators to prove that they had nothing to do with that garbage”. Or at the least, you’re assuming “their opponents” would be “petty enough” to make these types of accusations. Either way, you are condesending to members on either side of the issue.

    Why can’t State House and Senate GOP members support a colleague that they have worked with for a few years without someone like you assuming you know the reasons for their support?

    Second, in your initial “analysis” you stated that you believe that there will be “collateral damage to Senators who backed Austin moves the contest for Senate control in a direction favorable to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.” What do you mean by “collateral damage’? Are you assuming that there may be “grudges” held by Senator-elect Wilkinson or Lt. Gov. Cagle towards those Senators who may have supported a GOP General Assembly colleague in this race.

    Personally, I think that the Lt. Governor Cagle and Senator-elect Wilkinson will be bigger men than what you may be presumming that they will be. I don’t think that they will hold a grudge against GOP House and Senate members, who supported a colleague and friend (Rep. Rick Austin) in this race. From what I’ve read about Wilkinson, I believe he will be a fair minded individual when it comes to legislative ideas and Senate rules.

    I hope you’ll won’t take my thoughts too personal, but as constructive criticism. I’ve read some of your stuff and you sound like you have some good thoughts. On this issue, you appear to be biased in your analysis.

      • CobbGOPer says:

        Just because he went to Emory doesn’t necessarily mean he’s smart…

        I’m kidding, Todd, kidding!

    • Todd Rehm says:


      I’d be a lot more willing to take your thoughts as constructive criticism if I didn’t know who you are. But I’ll go ahead and pretend you’re not an interested party and respond to some of your points.

      First, I never called on the Senators who backed Austin to prove anything. The ones I know personally, I am willing to take at their word if they say they didn’t do it. My point was that they’re likely to be damaged because there is no way for them to prove they didn’t have anything to do with the anonymous attacks. There’s also no way to prove I didn’t personally do all the mail and phone calls just so I’d have something to write about.

      Second, I went out of my way to say over and over again that any damage incurred by Senate leadership or individual Senators may be collateral. By “collateral damage,” I mean damage to third parties who were neither involved in the attacks nor targeted by them.

      Third, you might want to take some time to review the restrictions on political activity undertaken while on the clock in a state agency that is funded with federal dollars, while using a state computer and a state internet connection.

  6. Rick A. says:

    Ladies and Gents:

    Sometimes I think that we take life, and politics, so seriously, that we can’t see the forest for the trees…and that is coming from someone who lost a significant race last night, due in part to forces and actions well beyond my control.

    So, let me offer a bit of wisdom : Don’t take life so seriously that you can’t enjoy it. Love you family and friends with reckless abandon. Remember that politicians, political pundits, and anonymous bloggers are people, even if they act less-than-human sometimes.

    Life is a journey. Enjoy it! Merry Christmas to you all!

  7. bowersville says:

    Congratulations to Senator elect John Wilkinson. At his reception election night Wilkinson commended two local people and credited them with running his campaign. Wilkinson identified the two as Arch Adams and David Phillips. According to past AJC articles, Arch Adams outed Beth Merkleson as a fraud. David Phillips is a GOP activist in the Franklin County Republican Party. It is note worthy that John Wilkinson and the two who ran his campaign stayed focused on the issues that affect the residents of north east Georgia that reside in Senate 50. Not one of the quality mailers and push cards that Adams and Phillips produced strayed from Senate 50 concerns and issues. John Wilkinson wouldn’t have stood for it. Wilkinson also made the remark and quoted Adams, “I [Adams] might want to work with you again, but I wouldn’t go on vacation with you.” The crowd had a big laugh but the implication was plain. John Wilkinson is his own man.

    John Wilkinson, a good man, a man of character, a family man with social conservative values is true to his word, “My only commitment will be to the constituents of Senate 50.”

  8. Cloverhurst says:

    Debbie has no idea what she is talking about.

    It was Zell Miller that first gave Senate leaders an semblance of control. As President of the Senate- the Lt. Governor should have all the powers and authority designated to a presiding officer.

    Also- who’d like to bet that all these primaries she talks about never happen.

    • debbie0040 says:

      “As President of the Senate- the Lt. Governor should have all the powers and authority designated to a presiding officer.” Keep in mind that Vice-President Biden is President and presiding officer of the U.S. Senate. Just how much power does he have?

      Cloverhurst, then please explain how the GOP was able to remove power from Lt. Governor Mark Taylor when they took control of the Senate.. Did they remove power unlawfully and Lt. Gov. Taylor out of the goodness of his heart just said, “Gee, shucks, the Republicans should have all the power since they won the Senate. ”

      As for the primaries, you are just too smart for me Cloverhurst, they will never happen and are just a figment of my imagination.

      • Romegaguy says:

        I am sure that if your candidate Ralph Reed had won as LT. Gov you wouldnt be arguing to limit the power of the LT. Gov Debbie.

        One of the best things the voters of this state have ever done was NOT electing that charlatan Reed.

          • Doug Grammer says:

            In my opinion, they don’t.

            ARTICLE V. , EXECUTIVE BRANCH, SECTION I., ELECTION OF GOVERNOR AND LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, Paragraph III. Lieutenant Governor. There shall be a Lieutenant Governor, who shall be elected at the same time, for the same term , and in the same manner as the Governor. The Lieutenant Governor shall be the President of the Senate and shall have such executive duties as prescribed by the Governor and as may be prescribed by law not inconsistent with the powers of the Governor or other provisions of this Constitution. ”

            ARTICLE III., LEGISLATIVE BRANCH, SECTION III. OFFICERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY Paragraph I. President and President Pro Tempore of the Senate. (a) “The presiding officer of the Senate shall be styled the President of the Senate. ”

            There is no actual job duties of the Lt. Gov. OR for the the President of the Senate. Therefore the Senate rules may describe those job duties as it sees fit. Want to claim otherwise? Show us where in the GA State Constitution it says otherwise.

  9. seekingtounderstand says:

    Actually, people will be listening to her and trusting you politicans at the GA legislature less and less. CAPCO, HOT LANES< LAND DEALS AT RESERVOIRS, TSPLOSTS and FOOD TAX will even give her more attention to the corrupt that lies to get elected to represent the people

  10. Cloverhurst says:

    Re: Joe Biden- we have a 150 year political tradition in the United States where the Vice President does not take an active role in the daily operations of the Senate.

    In Georgia we have a different tradition- established when we created the office of Lt. Governor after WWII.

  11. debbie0040 says:

    Is it Constitutional? Tradition does not matter… Tradition did not stop Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor from being stripped of his power now did it?

    This whole matter will ultimately be settled by the GA Supreme Court.

      • bowersville says:

        Individual members had the right to vote. It’s called a general election and the people of the State of Georgia decided this one a few years ago.

        The people of the state of Georgia elected Casey Cagle as President of the Senate. The coup was after the election. IMHO the coup is attempting to overturn an election of the people. I don’t have anything against Tommie Williams, but the people of the State of Georgia outside his district can not vote for or against Tommie Williams. If the Lt. Governor does something for or against the people of Georgia there is recourse at the ballot box. The GA house is set up that way by having a speaker elected by the Assembly. Do we the voters want even less say in the Senate?

        Let the vote of the people of this State count. Honor the vote.

        • debbie0040 says:

          There is a process to ammend the GA Constitution, the State Senators nor the Lt. Governor can choose to ammend it on their own.

          The people of this state elected Casey Cagle as Lt. Governor in accordance with the GA Constitution. The Lt. Governor and State Senators took an oath to uphold the GA Constitution. It amazes me that some think the Senators have the right to change the Georgia Constitution if they don’t like certain provisions. You clearly have not got the message that people expect the Constitution to be followed whether it be the GA Constitution or the U.S Constitution. When it is not followed then you can expect legal challenges!

  12. debbie0040 says:

    Harry, that would be good but what would be even better is for the Georgia Constitution to actually be followed and it not be at the mercy of State Senators aligned with either side.

    The bottom line is that it does not matter whose side you are on in this division in the State Senate. The upmost importance is that the GA Constitution be followed.

    • Howard Roark says:

      Here are the duties listed for the Lt G in the Georgia Constitution.

      Paragraph III. Lieutenant Governor. There shall be a Lieutenant Governor, who
      shall be elected at the same time, for the same term , and in the same manner as the Governor.
      The Lieutenant Governor shall be the President of the Senate and shall have such executive
      duties as prescribed by the Governor and as may be prescribed by law not inconsistent with
      the powers of the Governor or other provisions of this Constitution. The compensation and
      allowances of the Lieutenant Governor shall be as provided by law.

  13. debbie0040 says:

    Executive duties are different than Legislative duties. Different branches of government and there is a separation of branches and powers in the Constitution. You do know that, right?

    • Doug Grammer says:

      The Vice President of the United States has both legislative and executive duties. He may cast a deciding vote, which is a legislative duty. He may also assist the President or stand in his place, an executive duty.

  14. debbie0040 says:

    The VP only casts a vote in case of a tie and is a member of the Executive branch and can be assigned executive duties by the President. The VP does not appoint committee chairmen nor directs what committee legislation is sent to nor is part of a conference committee.

  15. Harry says:

    Nothing personal regarding Casey Cagle, I actually like him, but the Georgia Senate can best serve their constituents by operating as a independent and bottom-up entity rather than top-down. It should be the senior body with each senator having autonomy and responsibility. There’s no need for overbearing leadership, whether the Lt. Governor or other groups or individual(s). Just my opinion.

  16. Bloodhound says:

    “The Lieutenant Governor shall be the President of the Senate….”

    SHALL BE!!!

    SHALL BE!!!

    SHALL BE!!!

    It does not infer, nor is it grey in any manner, that would allow one to believe that the President of the Senate’s power may be usurped by the Pres Pro Tem’s block.

    The Constitution states “The Lieutenant Governor SHALL BE the President of the Senate”

    @ Harry, the fact is that the power of the Lt. Governor was usurped so that the body could be controlled by the Pres. Pro Tem’s allies. It is not currently acting as a “bottom-up” entity. It is being controlled by a minority block of Senators directly nullifying the will of Georgia’s voters.

  17. debbie0040 says:

    I thik this is a matter that the GA Supreme Court needs to settle…

    The Vice-President shall be President of the U.S Senate…

    Repeat after me: The Lt. Governor is a member of the EXECUTIVE Branch, EXECUTIVE Branch, EXECUTIVE Branch

    • Romegaguy says:

      Repeat after me Debbie “The Lieutenant Governor shall be the President of the Senate and shall have such executive duties as prescribed by the Governor and as may be prescribed by law not inconsistent with the powers of the Governor or other provisions of this Constitution. ”

      Deeply sorry that your boy Ralph lost.

  18. Bloodhound says:

    Ms. Debbie, the State of Georgia has its own Constitution. It is wholly separate from the Constitution of the United States. There are no provisions for a VP in Georgia State Government.

    The duties of the Lt. Gov are that he is to preside over the Senate and if he can’t go, then the Pro Tem steps in and assumes his duties.

    There is no correlation between the office of VP & Lt. Gov.

    “Apples & oranges” “Grapes & bananas”.

    • benevolus says:

      Not only that, I don’t think there is any “job description” of what “President of the Senate” entails.

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