The major political story in Georgia has been the new map for the state’s U.S. House districts. Passed in the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Nathan Deal, the plan severely dilutes Democratic strength in the 12th District held by Rep. John Barrow—so much so that Democrat Barrow was dubbed “a walking dead man” by veteran conservative activist Phil Kent, former editorial page editor of the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle.
The other major change in the Peach State’s U.S. House delegation was its gain of a 14th District. Created in north Georgia, the newest district has 20 counties. Because it is considered a safely Republican district, its primary for Congress next year is, in all likelihood, tantamount to election.
And with a contest shaping up as the embodiment of the competition between Tea Party conservatives and more “establishment” candidates that is a national face-off within the GOP, the primary for the seat is sure to be watched, reported on, and analyzed nationwide.
“Tea Party before they called it Tea Party” is how conservative hopeful and longtime radio talk show host Martha Zoller is often introduced. A mother of four and fixture on area radio for more than 15 years, Zoller has developed a fervent following for highlighting issues that range from the pro-life cause to rolling back illegal immigration to cutting federal taxes and spending.
Like the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R.-N.C.) in his years as a radio and TV editorialist, Zoller has long drawn fan mail urging her to keep speaking out and run for office. University of Georgia graduate Zoller is also a part of community life in Hall County (the largest county in the district), working as an active volunteer in groups such as the Rotary Club and the African-American Foundation.
“I think people will respond to someone who is part of the community and knows its needs,” Zoller told HUMAN EVENTS during a recent trip to Washington, D.C., “and in a district where unemployment is over 10% and cities are having furlough days, my message of balancing the budget without increasing taxes, fees or mandates on the American people will resonate.”
Zoller’s leading opponent is state Assemblyman Doug Collins, trial lawyer and ally of former Republican Gov. (2002-2010) Sonny Perdue. Although Collins is generally conservative, he does have a record that includes a highly controversial vote for a Perdue-backed proposal last year that levied a 1.45% fee on the adjusted gross patient revenue of the hospitals in Georgia. Although Perdue and other state officials dubbed it a fee, the measure (HB 306) was dubbed the “hospital tax” or “bed tax” throughout the Georgia press.
With 12 vigorous Tea Party organizations districtwide, Collins’ bed tax vote is likely to be a major point of debate in their contest. There are, of course, other Republicans mentioned for the primary—notably former State Sen. Chip Pearson, who is considered a strong fund-raiser because of his role as head of the Georgia Republican Foundation.
But for now, a bout looms large between Tea Party favorite Zoller and the establishment’s Collins. And with no major statewide contests, that should be the major event in Georgia politics in 2012.