Politi­cians don’t fin­ish the drill

The Covington News - - Front page -

It is a phrase that UGA foot­ball Coach Mark Richt uses of­ten with his play­ers: Fin­ish the drill. In other words, get the job done, do it right, and do it all.

That mes­sage seems to have been lost on some of the peo­ple serv­ing in po­lit­i­cal of­fice. The trend now is to get elected to some­thing and then re­sign. A good ex­am­ple is Sarah Palin, who quit be­fore fin­ish­ing her term as Alaska’s gov­er­nor. Palin seems to have been an in­spi­ra­tion to a lot of Ge­or­gia politi­cians.

Three candidates in the Repub­li­can pri­mary for gov­er­nor re­signed half­way through their terms in elec­tive of­fice: Karen Han­del (who was sec­re­tary of state), Eric John­son (a state se­na­tor) and Nathan Deal (a con­gress­man).

Since the 2008 elec­tion, leg­is­la­tors who have quit mid­stream in­clude Glenn Richardson, Tom Graves, Lee Hawkins, Rob­bin Shipp, Ce­leste John­son, David Adel­man, Ed Tarver, Kasim Reed, Hardie Davis and Buddy Carter. Davis and Carter soon re­turned to the capi­tol be­cause they won spe­cial elec­tions to re­place re­signed se­na­tors. The oth­ers have de­parted the Gold Dome, pre­sum­ably never to re­turn.

Here’s how bad it has got­ten: in the space of eight months, nearly 10 per­cent of the Ge­or­gia Se­nate — five of its 56 mem­bers — re­signed from the Leg­is­la­ture early.

Some law­mak­ers re­signed to cam­paign for other offices. Reed was elected mayor of At­lanta. Hawkins and Graves are run­ning in the May 11 spe­cial elec­tion to serve out the re­main­der of Nathan Deal’s con­gres­sional term.

The State Trans­porta­tion Board has be­come an ir­re­sistible mag­net for leg­is­la­tors. In the past three years, Johnny Floyd, Bobby Parham and Jay Shaw all quit their House seats to serve on that board. Vance Smith left his House seat af­ter 17 years to be­come the DOT com­mis­sioner.

Other leg­is­la­tors were ap­pointed to fed­eral po­si­tions: Adel­man is now the U.S. am­bas­sador to Sin­ga­pore while Tarver is the U.S. At­tor­ney for the south­ern district of Ge­or­gia.

Those are all valid rea­sons for re­sign­ing and we prob­a­bly shouldn’t stand in the way of some­one who is looking for the op­por­tu­nity to ad­vance their pro­fes­sion- al ca­reer.

Still, if you’re go­ing to run for po­lit­i­cal of­fice, it would seem that you owe it to the peo­ple elect­ing you to be hon­est with them. When a can­di­date is cam­paign­ing, he or she should say: “Vote for me — I’ll only be here for part of the term.” Or: “If you don’t like the way I han­dle the job, I’ll quit early and you won’t have to throw me out of of­fice.”

Th­ese early res­ig­na­tions are an in­di­ca­tion of an­other trend in state pol­i­tics: it isn’t much fun to serve in the Leg­is­la­ture any­more. The mas­sive cuts in state spending caused by the re­ces­sion have forced every­one to vote for elim­i­nat­ing pop­u­lar pro­grams or lay­ing off state em­ploy­ees. That does not sit well with con­stituents and they are quick to let leg­is­la­tors know they aren’t happy about it.

There are nu­mer­ous mem­bers of the Gen­eral As­sem­bly who, while not re­sign­ing early, have al­ready an­nounced that they won’t qual­ify to run for an­other term in of­fice.

Se­na­tors Seth Harp and Ralph Hud­gens are run­ning for in­sur­ance com­mis­sioner, Jeff Chap­man is run- ning for gov­er­nor, and Gail Buckner is run­ning for sec­re­tary of state. Don Thomas and Dan Moody de­cided not to run for an­other term.

On the House side, Tom Knox is run­ning for in­sur­ance com­mis­sioner and Melvin Everson is run­ning for la­bor com­mis­sioner. Du­Bose Porter and Austin Scott are run­ning for gov­er­nor. Mike Ke­own and Clay Cox are run­ning for Congress. Jim Cole, Bob Smith, Burke Day, Jerry Keen and Mark Burkhal­ter are leav­ing the Gen­eral As­sem­bly.

Of the 56 se­na­tors who were sworn in for a twoyear term in Jan­uary 2009, at least 11 will have been re­placed by Jan­uary 2011 when the next batch is sworn in. That’s not count­ing in­cum­bent se­na­tors who might be de­feated when they run for re­elec­tion later this year.

Over in the House, it is al­ready cer­tain that at least 20 of the mem­bers who took of­fice in Jan­uary 2009 will be gone be­cause of re­tire­ment or early res­ig­na­tion by the time Jan­uary 2011 rolls around.

It will be a very dif­fer­ent Gen­eral As­sem­bly next year. We’ll see if it will be a bet­ter one.

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