Dear Gov. Kemp:
I trust you are settled into your new job and are busy governing our beloved state. My purpose in writing is to let you know you aren’t in this thing alone. I am always available to dip into my deep reservoir of political knowledge whenever you need me. Heck, you don’t even have to need me. I’ll dip in, anyway. It’s what I do.
First off, I am happy to see a fellow brother of the Nu Zeta chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha at the University of Georgia occupy the governor’s chair. The last one to do so was Joe Frank Harris, who overhauled public education funding in Georgia, helped establish the World Congress Center and was an important part of the effort to secure the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games for our state. A good governor and a good man.
Yours was a long and winding road to the governor’s office. You took a lot of heat for your commercials during your campaign, threatening the little dweeb who was thinking of dating your daughter as well as the round-’em-up pickup truck commercial. Anyone who knows squat about politics knows you had to run hard to the right to secure the nomination.
Fortunately for you, chief rival Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle developed a case of flap-jaw and showed us how sleazy politics can be. Speaking into a hidden cellphone, he admitted he got a bad bill passed that negatively impacted public education. He did so to prevent your common rival, state Sen. Hunter Hill, from receiving a $3 million handout from Alice the Walmart lady, who seems to think that selling television sets and blue jeans gives her some divine right to tell us how to run public schools in Georgia. Had he asked, I would have told Cagle to keep his integrity and let Hunter Hill, who has the charisma of a tree stump, have the money. No amount of dollars would make the guy exciting.
What a lot of people failed to notice is that after you won the Republican primary, you moderated your message, which is how I am hoping how you will govern.
If you don’t, we could be looking at a Democratic governor in the near future and not a George Busbee/Carl Sanders Democrat but someone who will lurch as far to the left as some right-wingnuts would have you lurch to the right. As you know better than anyone, that almost happened this election.
Republicans would do well to heed the warning of House Speaker David Ralston. According to Greg Bluestein, of the Atlanta Newspapers, Ralston told a gathering of Republicans recently that the GOP advantage in the Georgia House has shrunk to 15 seats and noted that Republicans won that same number of seats in the last election by 55 percent or less. Those districts, largely in the Atlanta suburbs, will be the focus of a fired-up bunch of Democrats, led by Stacey Abrams, in the next elections. Just six years ago, Republicans held a 65-seat majority in the House.
Why the dwindling majority? Too many Republicans would rather be ideologically correct than be elected. Unless you do something to change that mindset, their wishes may come true in 2020. Speaker Ralston said it this way, “We must reject those in our midst who spend all their time — and I’m talking every second of their time — finding fault with other Republicans. We must reject those who would tear us apart from within to advance their own special agendas.” Amen.
I don’t need to remind you that whoever has the majority after the next election will control redistricting in 2021 and that will determine who controls state government for at least the next decade.
The ball is in your court. You will either be remembered as the governor who presided over the demise of the Republican Party in Georgia by catering to uncompromising wingnuts or as a leader who pitched a tent big enough for reasonable people who eschew wingnuts on either side of the political spectrum to feel welcomed. I believe I know you well enough to think you will be the latter. At least, I hope so.
I will let you get back to governing the state, but don’t hesitate to call if you need me. If I don’t respond immediately it will be because I am minding someone else’s business. You think being governor is hard? Try being a know-it-all columnist. I may sometimes be in error, but I’m never in doubt.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb