There's no one to play arch villain, no one worthy of rooting against. No Mitch Skandalakis. No Bill Campbell. And while James might be the most solidly on the left, in Greg Hecht, David Scott and David Worley, voters in the solidly Democratic 13th have a full range of choices from the party's spectrum.
That reduces this race to political basics: Which candidates will be able to make their name known to voters and how effectively will they get those voters to the polls? There are scenarios under which each can win. That points to the inevitability of a runoff, whose outcome probably depends on which candidate spends money most wisely in the primary.
That said, conventional wisdom says the race is Scott's to lose because of the district's roughly 40 percent black voting age population, but Hecht and Worley both can make a case for why they should make it to November. And while James hasn't raised the money the others have, she can spoil the day for Scott and has shown she can run effective grassroots campaigns in her Fulton County state senate district.
No matter who takes the prize Aug. 20, the 13th District's birth was difficult. According to Gold Dome insiders, the original plan was to craft two new districts in which both Hecht and Worley -- a new party golden boy and a long-time party stalwart, respectively -- could run. The problem was that they live in the same precinct.
Engineering a map to carve out electoral islands for the pair required contortionist penmanship that, even for Georgia, would have been conspicuous. And the legislature's Black Caucus took a dim view of handing over both of Georgia's new Congressional districts to white guys. And that's where Scott -- who has judiciously built his political power during the past three decades, eventually becoming chairman of the Senate's Rules Committee -- comes into the picture.
It's tough to describe the district in print, because there's nothing, man-made or otherwise, that even vaguely resembles it. The best possible look-alike analogy is that of a lopsided spider's web with the center of the web in Clayton County. The uneven tentacles extend west into south Fulton and Douglas counties, east and south through Henry, Spalding and Butts counties, east through Rockdale and Newton, and north and east into parts of Gwinnett and Walton. In all, it includes parts of 11 different counties.
About 222,000 voters call the 13th home -- 112,000 whites, 100,000 blacks -- and the majority of the likely Democratic voters reside in Clayton and Fulton counties.
The district is considered 58 percent Democratic, and Al Gore, who lost the state handily to President Bush in 2000, won the area with 59 percent of the vote, according to Worley, the former head of the state Democratic party. That makes the primary all-important, because whoever emerges from it will be the favorite come November. Clay Cox is the only Republican to have raised serious dough -- about $252,000 as of the March 31 federal disclosure.
When it comes to issues, if Cox looks at the national Democratic platform, he'll know what to expect in the general. All four of the primary candidates brought up health care (a prescription drug benefit, especially), education and economic development -- though not necessarily in that order -- and the nuances of some of their positions are worth noting.
Also, there are a handful of issues that separate the candidates. Scott, the head of his own advertising company, is dead set against the Northern Arc, and its potential to suck thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in development money from the southside. He could make Rep. John Lewis a handy helpmate if they could convince a few more Congressmen to tie up federal highway appropriations for the Arc.
Hecht, too, says he's not happy with the current incarnation of the Arc but stops short of Scott. "We don't like it in terms of how it allocates all the resources up to that area," Hecht says. "I think most of the people from the 13th District would like to see an allocation of resources that brings jobs to the majority of the 13 District, which is not where the Northern Arc would go."
Worley and James aren't opposed to the plan, but Worley adds that he would work to make sure the southside gets its fair share.
Hecht also tries to separate himself from the pack by talking up specific parts of his record on education. He points to legislation he helped pass in the state Senate that rewards teachers in failing schools who have a history of satisfactory performance reviews -- as well as advanced degrees -- a 10 percent salary increase. Hecht says the same thing needs to be done throughout the country to retain talent and prevent the collapse of the nation's worst schools.
Give cep a break. This project has a just-disclosed shovel-ready "green" element with funding from…
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Great picture and caption.
cep, i hope you become homeless.