Rock or hard place?
Terry or Larry?
OK, so you voted with Gov. Roy Barnes to change the flag. That was tough. The folks back home were really upset.
You voted with Barnes on legislative redistricting. That seemed a little crazy with all those funny-looking districts. You did it anyway. The boys back at the drugstore asked if you'd lost your mind.
You stuck with Barnes on education reform. And your old high school teachers went nuts. "What's wrong with our schools?" they wanted to know. "Just look at you. You went through our schools. You did OK. You're in the Legislature, aren't you?"
Not to worry, you told them. "I did it all for you. As your state representative, I can help you more. I voted with the big boys," you said. "I can get more state money for roads. I can get those new bleachers for the Little League field. I might even get a new state welfare office or new state patrol post. That would mean more jobs. Barnes owes me a lot. And I'm close to Speaker Tom Murphy. Don't worry about a thing."
Now what do you do? Barnes lost the election, and so did Murphy. They're outta here.
Your headaches are coming back. You just received a letter from Rep. Terry Coleman telling you to "sign here." it was a pledge to vote for him as House speaker. Why, heck, you already voted for Coleman once, in the Democratic caucus a month ago. Now he wants you to promise in writing to vote for him again in the House on Jan. 13.
Just as you're about to sign on the dotted line. Rep. Larry Walker sticks his head in the office door.
"Hey, Larry baby, what's happening?" you say, relieved that you could put off signing that letter.
"I want you to vote for me for speaker," says Larry. "It's not just for me. It's for Gov, Perdue. He would really appreciate it. You'd make a friend of the governor - and of me, your new speaker. Gov. Perdue and his Republican pals want me, the current Democratic floor leader, to be the new speaker of the Georgia House."
"Why do they want you to be speaker?" you ask Larry.
Buttoning his coat and pulling up his lie, Larry says; "A new day is dawning in Georgia politics. The day of the moss-back dinosaur is over. It's time we had a speaker who could represent the wishes of all Georgians - Republicans and Democrats - and carry out the program of a new governor. The new governor wants free-flowing legislation. He doesn't want partisan roadblocks. He wants your help, and I want your help. And we can help you."
Just then, the phone buzzes. "Sonny Perdue here. Just want you to know how much we appreciate you helping us. Of course, if you can't vote for Larry - we will certainly understand. But we will not forget. Got that? We will not forget. Good-bye, and come set a spell when you have time."
That settles it. You cannot disobey your principles as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. If a governor threatens you, you have no other choice - you must do what he says.
The phone again. It's Terry Coleman. "You signed that letter yet?" he wants to know. "If you don't sign that pledge - and if you vote against me and your fellow Democrats, let me tell you what will happen. Sonny Perdue and Larry Walker will ram a bill through the Legislature, creating a new office called Inspector General. This new guy will be like a special attorney general, and he'll have prosecutorial powers. You know what his mission will be? He'll subpoena and prosecute all Democrats, including you. He will have Sonny's Enemies List in his pocket, and he'll chase down any official who says a word against the new governor. And maybe anybody who looks or acts like a Democrat."
Then Terry adds: "But if you vote for me, a new day will dawn in Georgia politics. For the first time, we will have a Georgia House that is truly independent - one that does not have to kowtow to the governor. We will hold the balance of power. It will be us against them - the governor and the turncoat Senate. We can and will do what is best for all the people - black and white. Besides, the Democrats are not down and out. We just lost one round of elections. We'll be back. Wait and see.
"Of course, if you don't vote for me as speaker and I win - then you should stock up on books and magazines. You'll be reading a lot and twiddling your thumbs. Your only assignment: serving on the Window-Closing Committee. At the end of each day, you will be asked to make certain all the windows are closed."
There you have it - a damnable dilemma if there ever was one. What's a guy like you to do? Support Terry and the Democrats - or go with Larry, Gov. Sonny's choice for new speaker to replace that grand old man, the legendary Tom Whatshisname? Either way, a "new day is dawning in Georgia politics." Both sides said so.
Ah, woe is you - such a life. Nothing but decisions. It used to be fun; now it's mean and stressful. But then that's why the voters send you to the Legislature: to cast those hard votes and make those big bucks, right?
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or by calling (770) 422-2543, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com