By: Chris Bridges

The 2006 state-wide primary election in Georgia is set.

Last week, numerous Democrats and Republicans signed up to seek state-wide office for 2006. As always, there were some surprises as well as some candidates who have been known campaigning for months.

One race that might surprise some people (simply because there will be a race) is for the Republican nomination for governor. Sonny Purdue has the power of incumbency this year, but that didn’t stop Ray McBerry from signing on the dotted line to run.

McBerry will be reminding Republican primary voters in coming weeks that Purdue sidestepped his promise to allow citizens the chance to vote on the “old” Georgia flag, which was made official back in the 1950s.

When Purdue was running for the office four years ago, he told Georgians he believed they should be allowed to vote on their choice of flags that would represent the state. In true political fashion, Purdue did allow citizens the chance to vote, but the 1956 flag was not among the two choices on the ballot.

The section of Georgians known as “flaggers” has been furious since that time and there have been many promises to hold the current governor accountable. On the surface, this race probably seems one-sided and to be little more than nuisance to the sitting governor. In theory, that argument certainly can be made.

However, I wouldn’t underestimate the impact McBerry will have in the Republican primary for governor. There are thousands of Georgians who are still upset about the way Purdue handled the flag issue.

Plus, McBerry is stressing other issues — including a strict, hard-line policy on illegal immigration as well as emminant domain — in an attempt to obtain a greater vote total. He is also using a reliable campaign tactic of running to be the voice of the common man, something that I personally always like to hear since I am a “common man” like thousands of other Georgians.

Other positive aspect to McBerry’s campaign is that voters who participate in the Republican primary will have a choice when they look at the candidates for governor. Nothing is worse than having one candidate to chose from. That’s not a choice, that’s being told who to vote for.

What will be interesting to watch during the campaign will be how Purdue handles the McBerry campaign. Will he simply ignore his challenger? Will he answer the legitimate questions McBerry will raise concerning the governor’s broken promise about the flag? Will he agree to meet McBerry one-on-one in a forum? All of these questions will be worth getting answers to before the summer primary arrives. Purdue probably hoped he would get a pass before entering the general election in November. As it turns out, he really can’t look past his primary challenger. If he does, the end result could be a devastating outcome for Purdue.

As for McBerry, he has given Republican voters a primary choice. He has given people who are still upset about the state flag a candidate to rally behind. I have heard those who believe the state flag is still an issue called “a silent army.”

Governor Purdue may just learn how big of an army that is in the next few months.

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