Thursday, June 29, 2006

Election (the reality...not the movie)

'Tis the season to cast one's vote for the either a rock or a hard place, the frying pan or the fire, the devil or the deep blue sea. This year I actually read an email post from a local activist so disappointed with the flip-flopping, and ultimately pro-ban position of her gubernatorial candidate of choice, Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, on same-sex civil unions and marriage and the troubling legality of the ban (see below) that she had written the candidate an open letter in which she was urging all of her activist colleagues and friends to vote Republican. Have things gotten that bad? You can see private citizen video illustrations of Cox's 2002 - 2004 waffling here and here.

Here in my currently peripatetic life the battle for Georgia Governor is between Secretary of State Cathy Cox and Lt. Governor Mark "the Big Guy" Taylor--so nicknamed because of his height and girth. Cathy Cox is not be confused with Kathy Cox the apparently incompetent and ineffectual State Superintendent of Schools who was nevertheless endorsed by the Georgia Association of Educators (who have also endorsed Taylor this year). The mudslinging has begun in the fight for Governor, with Cox and Taylor trading punches ad for ad:

• COX: "I'm not the 'Big Guy.'... State government's already got plenty of guys who think they're just a little bigger than the rest of us...And it's a big part of what's holding Georgia back: 'Big Guys' just scratching the backs of ... you guessed it other 'Big Guys'...Well all that's got to change to move Georgia forward..." (video)
• TAYLOR: "Cathy Cox says she's not the 'Big Guys'? She's right about that, Mark Taylor "the Big Guy"lead the fight to eleminate the state sales tax on groceries the largest tax cut in Georgia history... eradicated the sales tax on food...Cathy Cox said 'I don't see that anyone is starving because of the sales taxes that are now charged on food.'" (I called this the Marie Antoinette quote--i.e. "let them eat cake." which of course is what the Taylor campaign called it) (video)
• COX: "Mark Taylor is supposed to be a friend to labour, but he has shares in Wal-Mart, while his campaign chair (former UN Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor) Andrew Young has been hired as an advocate for the company. " (Georgia is both anti and pro Wal-Mart depending on the area you can read about Young's Wal Mart involvement here)
• COX: Mark Taylor got contracts for prison [industrial complex] who use free inmate labor thereby underbidding Georgia business owners with law-abiding employees. (video)
• TAYLOR: "Mark Taylor never owned a company that got prison labor. Mark Taylor does believe that prisoner should work, Cathy Cox doesn't think a lot of them belong there: she voted against mandatory sentencing for child molesters and rapist."
• TAYLOR: "Mark Taylor voted for the State Lottery which funds the Hope Scholarships for Georgia Students; Cox was against it"
• COX: "Cathy Cox has always supported the Hope Scholarships"
• TAYLOR: "Cathy Cox's local paper said 'she did not vote for the lottery [which funds the Hope Scholarship].'" (the Mark Taylor campaign video on these last two issue; and a private citizen video intervention on the Hope Scholarship issue)

And on and on with neither candidate supporting LGBT rights, or talking about immigration issues, or rising gas costs, or transportation issues which are also key in Georgia at present. Thanks to the presence of there are numerous blogs on the race for Georgia governor. Some appear to be written by staffers, their viewpoints are so unequivocally supportive of one candidate. It's difficult to gauge accuracy, but the review of a cross-section of different blogs at least allows for a few different vantage points on the candidates.

Gay Marriage & Civil Unions
This week the status of the current ban on marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples is being decided. I'm not a proponent of marriage in general, but I don't believe any consenting adult of sound mind should be excluded from the institution if they desire participation. The constitutional amendent limiting marriage to heterosexual unions was voted in by 70% of Georgia voters back in November 2004. The measure also banned nonsanctified unions (If I understand the phrase correctly it pertains to both unmarried couples who are living together and any marriage officiated by a civil servant as apposed to an authorized religious functionary: priest, rabbi, minister). But that second ban wasn't listed on voter's ballots. Turns out the listing of this second item was illegal according to a 18th century "single subject rule" (about 41 states in the US still have these). Oops. So after a year of deliberation Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance Russell overturned the ban. Turns out 55 law professors from public and private law schools throughout Georgia agree with her. Ah, but it's an election year so a number of people up for election and re-election are in a tizzy. Governor Perdue has put the dilemma on the desk of the State Supreme Court (whose motto is Fiat Justitia, Ruat Caelum: "Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall") and make its decision by August 7, or the General Assmbly will have to hold a special session to put a replacement amendment on the ballot. No surprise that four of the Supreme Court Justice are themselves up for re-election. The former chief justice had this to say according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Norman Fletcher, the retired chief justice of the state Supreme Court, said he's concerned that Perdue — by issuing his deadline — has put his former colleagues between a rock and a hard place.

"If they [meet it], it looks a little bit like the executive branch is running the judicial branch. if they don't, with four of them on a ballot, then the blame for a special session will be placed on the court for not doing its duty," Fletcher said.
All this and required Georgia Voter ID cards for those without state or federal photo IDs that may not be ready in time for the election, potentially disenfrachising some 153,000 voters plus Katrina evacuees who have
relocated to Georgia. Additionally, former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell having been found guilty of tax evasion is on his way to prison for 30 months. I couldn't even begin to summarize that trial (which was about more than tax evasion) and the supporting cast of characters (over 100 as I recall). I must have seen more varied drama in state politics, but all of this seems rather striking. If not for the ongoing rollercoaster of power-dealings in New Orleans, I would argue that sadly Georgia couldn't be beat for political drama.


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