And the countdown continues. These were the big'uns.
5. 10th District Election - New media overload hit Northeast Georgia in the spring and summer of 2007. The sudden passing of Congressman Charlie Norwood set up a perfect political storm in a district far away from the usual white, hot center of the Georga political universe. An open election with no primary brought out the usual and the odd with a Republican establishment candidate, a Democrat grass roots candidate, a firebrand anti-immigration candidate and a dentist from Athens who never raised much of a fuss. With no competing political stories on the landscape every virtual eye turned east. Many videos were created. Many a blog entry was written. The 1oth became a petri dish for evaluating the impact of new media on a political campaign. In the end none of it mattered as soft spoken Paul Broun not only snuck into the runoff against Jim Whitehead but pulled off the monumental upset win. Most agree Broun's shocker had nothing to do with new and had a lot to do with old - namely shoe leather meeting the street. Or as Rusty succintly stated - don't mess with Athens.
4. Grady In Crisis - A major public institution awash in debt and mismanagement and Republicans as potential saviors? Stranger things may have happened but it might take some cogitating to think of one. The "Grady problem" simmered for years mostly occupying the minds of the hapless Dekalb and Fulton home owners who footed the bill year after year. 2007 brought the issue to a head as the venerable old hospital reached a fiscal crisis so grave closing the doors became a serious option. Enter Republican Senator and blogger David Shafer. Shafer filed open records requests, pored through pages of boring audits and began asking pointed questions of the powers that be. In other words, he acted just like any good blogger. In the political arena, Shafer tempered the firebrand rhetoric of his own party's leadership, countered the myths of "privatization" by opponents and even found time for every politician's favorite sport - gigging the AJC. Through the twists and drama of the the unfolding story the goal remained the same - keep Grady open, find some state funding but demand accountability. 2008 will reveal if Shafer and others can continue to navigate the minefields.
3. Drought - Oh Lord, will it ever end. Prayers, finger pointing and pouting. Not daycare at the local church but the hue and wail of the drought to end all droughts. By late summer everyone was talking water. Some blamed shellfish, some blamed the gubmint, both local and federal, some advocated a second secession, some advocated scorched earth. In the end, all were thirsty. With Lake Lanier at a 50 year low and no rainfall in sight, the drought dominated late summer and fall. Every rain drop brought a new blog entry and a recycling of the same old recrimnations. Things became so weird that even free market zealot Phil Kent began talking about building moratoriums. The drought was such a new media rock star it even inspired the creation of its own blog. Now the year ends, the rains have come and all wonder if like many internet storms if this one was just a flash in the pan or will it sustan into 2008.
2. GREAT - Get Rid of Every Ad-Valorem Tax or something like that. Speaker Glenn Richardson had an interesting year. He was re-elected as Speaker of the House, survived an ethics charge, fought like a cat cornered by dogs and once all the dust settled decided to kick up a little more by proposing the most far-reaching tax reform in Georgia history. The Speaker's plan to eliminate all Ad-Valorem taxes and replace with consumption taxes on everything from hair-do to teeth pullings created more odd partnerships than gay pride taking place the same weekend as the Southern Baptists Convention. The Georgia Municipal Association hated it. The Chamber of Commerce hated it. The unions hated it. Republican dominated Peach Pundit scoffed. Democrat laced Tondees Tavern eviscerated it. Hell, even the other Republican leaders Sonny Perdue and Casey Cagle hated it! And the funny thing was even though everybody was talking nobody actually knew what the thing was. The Speaker in his usual "man on the mountain" manner slowly dribbled out details. The trial ballons would float up and blow up under a hail of bullets from every gun in the blogosphere. And although we now sit less than three weeks from the opening of the legislature, still nobody knows exactly what the damned thing truly is. Political scientists may ponder for decades if Richardson was sly like a fox or the biggest goof in Georgia history.
1. Genarlow Wilson - Okay. So I may be a little biased. But how can anyone deny a story which brought the attention of national blogs such as The Volokh Conspiracy and Reason was not the story of the year? From Republican Matt Towery to Democrat Emmanuel Jones, the tragic injustice of the Wilson case touched practically every part of the Georgia political spectrum. Penultimately, the Georgia blogosphere did exactly the opposite of the claims of chicken little Kazinski. It was bloggers who exposed the lies and myths in the politician's spin. It was bloggers who quashed the urban legends surrounding that fateful New Year's Eve. It was bloggers who researched state and federal statutes to question the actions of Douglas County D.A. David McDade. And although some would deny it, bloggers played no small part in the eventual release of the young man. And ultimately, the freeing of Genarlow Wilson is all that matters.
And that's all for 2007. What do we have to look forward to in 2008? More drought, more Grady, more GREAT and god knows what else the yahoos spew forth. And Georgia media, new and old, will be there to cover it. Stay tuned.