Monday, March 06, 2006


Georgia's Lt. Governor Mark Taylor visits his home base- Albany- in his pursuit of the Governor's chair

(This column will appear in the 3/9/2006 THE ALBANY (GA.) JOURNAL)

Kids. Jobs. Healthcare. The messages were pure Democratic populism, and as carefully crafted as they may have been for a political campaign, they also reflected the reality of Mark Taylor’s career. As State Representative Freddie Powell Sims pointed out to the assembled public officials and local Democratic committee members at the Merry Acres banquet room the first Saturday in March, back when Mark Taylor was a young man starting out in the State Senate, he was an active Partner in Excellence for the underprivileged children at Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School, and later, he was a partner to the Phoenix Alternative School.

My enduring memory was showing up at ML King one day in the early 1990’s to drop off some donated supplies, including winter clothing, from the Dougherty Bar Association. When I walked back to the auditorium, I saw Mark Taylor sitting in a chair reading to a group of students. No reporters were present, and so far as I could tell, Mark never publicized his visits. When asked recently about his work, he responded that he felt he got as much out volunteering as a Partner in Excellence as the children did.

Their world and his couldn’t have been farther apart. He is the son of privilege, growing up in millionaire trucking executive Fred Taylor’s Albany mansion. They wore retread hand me downs and ate publicly funded school breakfasts and lunches. But on that winter morning it was clear that Mark reveled in the opportunity to interact with them, and they were raptly attentive as Mark read stories to them.

One characteristic that sets Mark Taylor apart from other politicians is that he has a simple, straightforward grasp of what he wants to accomplish, and it doesn’t change with the seasons or the audience. Safeguarding the Hope scholarship program and pre-kindergarten programs was at the top of his list. Implementing a “Peach Kids” program to insure all of Georgia’s children was second, and promoting Georgia to industry and providing jobs for Georgia’s adults was third.

When asked what separated him from his primary opponent, Secretary of State Cathy Cox, Mark told those assembled at Merry Acres that he had the experience from serving 12 years in the State Senate and seven years as Lieutenant Governor to push forward his goals. He frankly admitted that he didn’t know what Secretary Cox’s proposed policies were, and his only mention of her (not by name) was to deride her use of her official position to run numerous “public service” ads in 2004- more than Kerry or Bush ran in Georgia.

Mark appears to be aware that it is unlikely that primary voters will choose a Democratic gubernatorial candidate based on policy differences. Personality, experience, and style will have more impact on the campaigns of the two Southwest Georgians vying for the opportunity to make Sonny Perdue a one term governor.

Last week the political stories out of Atlanta touched on some of the typical Republican red meat issues- restricting abortion, criminalizing stem cell research, expanding the zone of self defense for gun owners. When asked what he would do if handed an abortion bill like the one that South Dakota recently passed-- a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to an abortion-- Mark responded with a quote from Bill Clinton: he hoped that abortions would be “safe, legal, and rare.” He left no doubt that if he is sitting in the governor’s mansion this time next year, he will focus on his agenda and his priorities.

Next Fall’s campaigns may well be muddied by ephemeral issues that pop up only in election years, only to sink into deserved obscurity when voters and candidates return to reality- gay marriage and flag burning being my two personal favorites. But I suspect that Mark Taylor won’t be distracted from his populist message, and some of the debate, at least, will relate to real issues that will still matter after all of the ballots are counted.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

good article which accurately reflects the event

11:10 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home