The campaign signs grew up like weeks once again in Columbia County, and now that crews are out harvesting the vacant lots and street corners, it’s time to see if there were any lessons to be learned.
Stick ’em In Early
Wayne Bridges had his signs in the ground before qualifying and it seemed to work, giving him nearly 59 percent of the vote for tax commissioner. Whether it was the signs, though, or his time on the Columbia County School Board that made such a difference isn’t entirely clear, but the fact that he was the only CPA in the race certainly didn’t hurt, given all that most people in Columbia County could tell you about the office is that it deals with money…and investigations into money. Who better to handle all that but a CPA, right?
Still Losing After All These Years
You’ve got to feel a little sorry for Brett McGuire, the fiscally conservative sage that keeps throwing himself in front of voters trying to convince them that all the wonderful things they see are built on the shifting sands of backroom deal making and unmanageable debt. Most people have lost track of how many different offices he’s run for, but his 13 percent showing for a commission district race – and one with no incumbent with a built-in advantage – certainly must sting. Even Democrat Floyd Everett came in ahead of him. But in a way you’ve also got to admire him – you can’t really say he’s trying to tailor his message to appeal to voters. Of course, you know what they say about repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results.
Riding the Wave
The same can’t be said for Vernon Thomas, the Democratic challenger in District 4. Last time around, he very nearly beat Republican Bill Morris, and though this time Morris had the power of incumbency, he also had a record of decisions to run against. However, voters seemed to have approved of what he’s managed to do, because Morris coasted to victory with no outside money, a few signs and over 2,000 more votes than Thomas.
Now, all eyes – or at least all the eyes that still give a damn – are on the runoff for District 3. Trip Derryberry carried the night handily with nearly 41 percent, followed by Mack Taylor with 23 percent. Given the fact that the 22 percent who voted for Democrat Floyd Everett will stay home, that leaves Taylor competing for McGuire’s votes, and even if he gets them all, which he won’t, it won’t be enough to overtake Derryberry. The runoff, then, boils down to two things: who can get their supporters to the polls on December 2 and what, if anything, Taylor can do to degrade Derryberry’s support. There are a few things out there that might come into play, but how seriously a largely disinterested electorate takes a negative campaign at this point is anybody’s guess.
Feeling Good – Let’s Spend Some Money
Feeling a little more comfortable about the economy and charmed by the prospect of a Cultural Arts Center of their very own (not to mention scared by the prospect of paying for a hospital with something other than SPLOST money), Columbia County voters passed the controversial SPLOST referendum by almost 10 percent. Already voices are rising up with advice about the Cultural Arts Center, though it’s not entirely clear just how much outside input Ron Cross is willing to listen to. By all accounts this is his baby, and his track record for listening to others (Evans Town Center Park) isn’t exactly legendary. However, it’s no small irony that the very thing that seemed to push the referendum to victory – spending money on the arts – was one of the things that sent Richmond County officials back to the drawing board. Columbia County keeps that money in house while Richmond County doles it out to outside agencies, and while that’s a difference that sticks in the craw of many Richmond County voters, you really don’t get the sense they’d trust the 10 commissioners with building an arts center, either. At least not until they can figure out how to renovate their own office building.