Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:
The Brunswick News on celebrating Black History Month:
Months that are dedicated to honor something or bring awareness to special causes present an interesting conundrum. Shining a spotlight on a worthy cause or remembrance is a great way to honor and bring awareness to the front of people’s mind.
Problem is, most of these dedicated months deserve to be celebrated the entire year, something we rarely do once the month ends. That especially pertains to Black History Month, which takes place in February.
The contributions that have been made to our nation by black men and women go way beyond what can fit in the shortest month of the year. In truth, black history should be celebrated all year, right there with other historical events.
History is easy to find in the Golden Isles, and the same can be said for black history. The tabby slave cabins on Gascoigne Bluff offer a peek into the past and show glimpses of what life was like back then. There are historic black churches that have been around for more than a century, including First African Baptist on St. Simons Island and Shiloh Missionary Baptist in Brunswick. There is Selden Park, which served as the center of African American culture and education for a huge part of the 20th century in Brunswick.
But history is more than places and buildings. It is also the people who experienced it. History is people like Cusie Sullivan, one of the best fishing guides on the Georgia coast in the early 20th century who operated out of a fish camp at the end of South Harrington Road on St. Simons Island. Getting Cusie’s services though required speaking his language — Gullah-Geechee.
There are many stories like Cusie’s in the Golden Isles. We encourage everyone to dig deep into not only black history on a national level but also into the history we have right here in our own backyard.
We also want people to not limit paying respect to black history to a single month. Black citizens have fought in wars, helped advance technology and contributed greatly to our prosperous nation, often while enslaved or treated as second-class citizens. Their contributions deserve to be celebrated year-round, not just in the span of 28 or 29 days.
The Savannah Morning News on Georgia election format changes:
The ruckus over whether Georgia voters should pick their finalists for an unexpectedly open U.S. Senate seat through primaries or a so-called “jungle” election is over.
We’ll have a jungle election this time but likely move to primaries for the future.
Given our current political climate and the increasingly partisan direction in which our country is heading, perhaps we should consider flipping that decision on its head.
No more primaries. Jungle elections only.
The Senate jungle election provides Georgians an opportunity to measure its merits against a more traditional primary format.
For review, a jungle election is essentially a free-for-all, with all hopefuls, regardless of party, on one ballot. To win, the lead vote-getter must get a majority, or 50% plus one vote. If no candidate reaches that mark, the top two advance to a runoff.
If this format sounds familiar, it should. It’s how Savannah voters elect the mayor and city council, and how voters countywide pick the school board.
Those races are labeled as nonpartisan. Most still know where candidates fall on the party spectrum — for example, former Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach once ran for Chatham County Commission chairman as a Republican.
The coming Senate election is a partisan contest, with candidates declaring themselves as Democrats, Republicans or otherwise. But by forgoing a primary in favor of a come-one, come-all election, candidates are forced to broaden their appeal beyond the ideologues and party disciples.
For instance, Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins will have to do more than try to one-up each other in demonstrating their allegiance to President Donald Trump, who has a cult-like hold on the GOP base. On the Democratic side, Rev. Raphael Warnock and businessman Matt Lieberman would do well to avoid pigeonholing themselves as far-left liberals.
We might even hear some pragmatic policy ideas or gain insights on the candidates’ legislative temperament in the runup to this jungle election.
Some will argue that hopefuls tend to moderate their messages and show more of their true selves once they win primaries and shift into general election mode. But what if we don’t like what we see? Depending on your political lean, you are stuck -- either support the party candidate or vote for the nominee from the other side, who likely is less in line with your beliefs.
The choice becomes one between the lesser of two evils, which in many instances is no choice at all.
JUNGLE PRIMARY CONS STOKE FEARS
The jungle election may sound preferable to a primary format, but it’s not perfect. In considering such a change, it’s important to note what could be considered drawbacks.
Foremost among the flaws are the narratives that drove the brief push to overhaul the Senate election.
For Republicans, the fear is a no-holds-barred battle for the soul of Georgia’s conservatives would split the GOP vote and open the door for a consensus Democratic candidate, such as Warnock, winning an outright majority.
Democrats, on the other hand, see a danger in the seat being decided via runoff. Turnout tends to be weak for second ballot elections, particularly among less-than-energized voters. What’s more, Georgia is a Republican majority state, and it’s entirely possible the top two vote-getters in the first election could be GOP candidates.
Hence the belief that Democrats would support a bill introduced by Georgia House Republicans last month that would have replaced the jungle election with a primary. Gov. Brian Kemp promised a veto, which would require a two-thirds majority to overturn, and the bill died.
Days later, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger proposed ending jungle elections starting next year.
Political parties see primaries as a risk management exercise. To succeed, candidates must embrace party ideologies. They must ally themselves with party power brokers. They must consider the best course to advance the party’s agenda.
Often times, those strategies and actions reflect the best interests of the people they represent. But not always. And in an era of increasing polarization, the ability to show an independent streak on certain issues is desperately needed.
So let’s pay close attention to how Georgia’s Senate candidates adjust to the jungle election format versus a primary. The better voters understand their candidates, the more informed the choice.
The Marietta Daily Journal on a the race between Republican candidates for a Senate seat opening up:
Congressman Doug Collins finally decided to challenge Georgia’s freshly appointed U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler for the seat held formerly by Johnny Isakson, setting up a bruising, divisive battle between two Republicans instead of the party’s coalescing behind one candidate.
Will Collins and Loeffler “tear each other apart and open up the seat for a Democrat?” Answering that question on Fox News, Collins said: “No. We’re not concerned about that at all. I’m concerned about going to the people of Georgia. We just need to have a process that lets people decide, lets them choose for themselves how they want to see this vision.”
Collins’ candidacy drew a blistering denouncement by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which backs Loeffler. “The shortsightedness in this decision is stunning,” said NRSC Executive Director Kevin McLaughlin. “Doug Collins’ selfishness will hurt David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler and President Trump. Not to mention the people of Georgia who stand to bear the burden of it for years to come.” Moreover, the NRSC official said Collins had “put two Senate seats, multiple House seats and Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in play.” The NRSC reiterated its firm support for Loeffler.
There already was a backlash from the Republican base in Georgia over Gov. Brian Kemp’s naming Loeffler to the Senate instead of Collins, who sought the appointment with the backing of President Trump. That undoubtedly helped fuel Collins’ decision. In anticipation of him entering the race, a committee of the Georgia House — where Collins served six years plus four years in the Senate — approved a bill in a bipartisan vote to junk the special election “jungle” primary open to all candidates as required by state law and instead restore the traditional party primaries in May leading to a November general election between primary winners. This change aims at giving an advantage to Collins who leads political unknown Loeffler in Republican preference polls.
Support for Collins by House Speaker David Ralston, who hails from the north Georgia domain of the congressman, could move the bill through the House. But even if the measure should muster enough votes to pass both the House and Senate, Kemp would veto it. A spokesperson for the governor said: “You don’t change the rules at halftime to benefit one team over another.” This kind of sword crossing is not going to improve Kemp’s effectiveness in the Legislature.
What role will Trump play in this Senate race? Presumably, he will endorse Collins, a longtime staunch supporter who has waged an all-out fight against impeachment of the president as the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee. Trump would be expected to campaign for Collins in Georgia where the president enjoys an approval rating of more than 90% among Republicans. That could offset Loeffler’s advantage in financial resources. At the same time, Loeffler seems to be in good standing with Trump. On the day of Collins’ announcement, the president made a point of singling out Loeffler at a White House ceremony for the signing of the new trade deal with Mexico and Canada. “Congratulations, Kelly. They really like you a lot,” the president said. “That’s what the word is.” Afterward, a grateful Loeffler — who strongly supports Trump — tweeted, “Thanks for the shoutout, @realDonaldTrump.” Such comity notwithstanding, don’t look for Trump to switch horses.
Now Loeffler and Collins will be attacking each other to the benefit of the Democrats who are licking their chops over the prospects of making new inroads in Georgia — not the scenario envisioned by Kemp. He wanted a fresh face candidate who could broaden the GOP base particularly among metro Atlanta suburban women who have trended toward Democrats in recent elections. That goal and Kemp’s hopes of bringing the Republican Party together behind Loeffler are gone with the wind.