Rural Georgia will play an important role in whether President Barack Obama is able to win the Peach State.
There are a handful of rural counties scattered across Central and South Georgia which can help turn a predominately ‘red’ state in recent years to an emerging ‘blue’ state in 2012.
Laurens County Democrats have been more enthuastic in the 2012 election cycle and have been more active in registering and encouraging voters in an effort to increase turnout.
On Monday, September 15, early voting begins in Georgia and will run through November 2.
Georgia Democrats are also hoping to increase their numbers in the state’s General Assembly.
One of the counties being watched during the 2012 election cycle is Laurens County.
Laurens has the third-largest number of registered voters in Central Georgia and the largest precinct is the Calhoun Park location in the city of Dublin with approximately 5,000 voters.
There has been increased attention from the local media in regard to the District 150 Georgia House race between incumbent Republican Matt Hatchett and Democratic challenger Sheikh Rahman.
Rahman told the Macon Telegraph that helping the public schools by properly funding them is a priority.
“The school system is really hurting bad,” said Rahman, pointing out school funds from the state of Georgia dwindle year by year, as the state cuts funding from the QBE formula. “It really scares me. Teachers are hurting, students are hurting,” he said.
For the first time in nearly two decades, local governments are now paying a higher percentage in regard to the cost of public education than the State of Georgia.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
…”In 2010, Georgia’s public schools received about 38 percent of their funding from the state, with local government paying about 48 percent. Federal and private sources accounted for the rest, according to the census report. In the past, the split has been about 55 state and 45 local..”
Hatchett, who came into office in early 2011, has attempted to take credit in a Macon Telegraph article for European companies–Dinex and Erdich– coming to Laurens County, but his role in attracting those companies to Georgia is minimal.
The local Chamber Commerce and Industrial Authority of Laurens County deserve the bulk of the credit, but keep in mind the 2009 economic stimulus or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has played a vital role in helping local communities attract business via tax credits and grants.
No Republicans supported the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and it was pushed primarily by Democrats along with President Barack Obama who signed the legislation into law.
Georgia Republicans Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal had been consistent critics of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
In the vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, Biden exposed Ryan, who voted against the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act., and made known to a nationwide audience that Ryan himself had requested -via two separate letters– stimulus funding on behalf of businesses in his home state of Wisconsin.
In August 2010, a story was written in the Atlanta Business Chronicle entitled: “Stimulus pumps $6.8 billion into Georgia business, agencies”
“Georgia businesses and government agencies have received $6.8 billion in economic stimulus funds since the program’s inception, according to a federal website”.
Laurens County’s unemployment rate started to rise in 2008. Within one year, the unemployment rate had gone from 7.8 to 11.2 in July 2009.
Republican obstructionism from the Tea Party in Congress and among Georgia Republicans helped to make the Peach State’s economic/employment problems worse.
In 2010, the unemployment rate grew to 12.6 in Laurens County and peaked in July 2011 at 13.5 percent.
In July 2012, the unemployment rate had dropped to a unsatisfactory 12.5 percent which is nearly three percent higher than Georgia’s unemployment rate.
Nationally, there has been nearly three years of private sector growth, but the loss of government jobs on the state level has helped to slow the economy recovery.
Plus, Georgia Republicans have rejected stimulus money and had been selective in money allocated. In essence, playing politics took a priority over helping struggling Georgians–especially the middle-class and working poor.
Hatchett, Gov. Nathan Deal and other Georgia Republicans plan to continue to cut state budgets in 2013 and the only way for things to get better for Georgia is to vote them out.
Local elections matter.
From the punitive HB-87 to his support of restructuring the HOPE scholarship, Hatchett’s brief legislative legacy has had a negative impact on rural Georgia.
Rural Georgians in Treutlen and Johnson counties now have to travel longer distances to get their driver license renewed. Hatchett voted to make it more difficult for Georgians–especially women– and now stricter mandates revolving around birth certificates and multple forms of identification are required for a drivers license to be issued or to receive a voter I.D. card.
Hatchett has also voted to put the charter school amendment on the November ballot which would undermine the authority of locally elected school boards.
Additionally, the potential passage of “Amendment 1” would be a vehicle for Republicans to funnel money away from an already financioally strapped public school system.
The one-term incumbent was also one of 90 Georgia Republicans in March 2011 to originally sponsor or sign their name — (Hatchett 143) — to legislation called the “Presidential Electibility Assurance Act” in an effort to keep President Barack Obama off the 2012 Georgia presidential primary ballot.
This measure did not make out of committee, but in 2013 , this could come up again if Republicans are able to gain a constitutional super majority in the Georgia House and Senate.
However, efforts to keep Barack Obama off the Georgia ballot in regard to challenging his birth certificate and citizenship went before a judge in January 2012.
Even though Macon, Warner Robins and Valdosta are among the largest cities in the state, cities such as Dublin, East Dublin, Soperton and Wrightsville can help to close the gap for Democrats along with providing new progressive leadership for rural Georgia.