By JASON SHEPHERD
Yesterday, our elected officials took their Oaths of Office to begin their terms, the culmination of the hard work that began nearly two years ago. This is only the third inauguration in the history of our state where all Constitutional officers who were sworn in were Republican. The trust placed in the Republican Party by the people of our state is still so very new compared to the more than 130 years of unchecked Democratic governance. While we are just now reaching our stride in governance, we cannot lose sight of how close our state came to turning back the clock on the progress that has been made by Republicans over the past sixteen years, and most of it in just the past eight.
Additionally, Georgians once again paid witness to what is an all too ordinary event in our nation, and one we almost take for granted; the peaceful transition of power. As Brian Kemp took the oath to become Georgia’s 83rd Governor, he took the office from his predecessor, Nathan Deal, and few thought about how extraordinary it was. The annals of history show far too often a different path is taken. Power is not easily relinquished or given, even from one leader of the same party or faction or family to another, it is usually seized by brute force. That is not what happened yesterday, and no one even contemplated it would. Nothing could have been further from our thoughts.
Even today, in many places where sham elections occur to keep a party in power, the opposition is arrested, their assets seized, and supporters harassed by the authorizes and their brut squads. Regardless of how close the 2018 election was, elected Democrats cheered on elected Republicans. As one former Democratic elected official posted on Facebook, “As the 2019 session begins, I wish the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Legislature much wisdom, compassion, patience, humility, and good humor. Thank you for serving. I’m rooting for you.”
Governor Brian Kemp gave an inaugural address that focused both on the success, but also on the challenges that Georgia faced. In a nod to an extremely close election, his speech showed no signs of arrogance, entitlement, or partisanship. In other words, Brian Kemp spoke much like the same man I met when he was elected to the Georgia Senate 16 years ago.
Kemp told the members of the General Assembly gathered for the jointed session, as well as the various elected officials, and guests, including those watching on TV, “Through the prism of politics, our state appears divided, metro versus rural, black versus white, Republican versus Democrat. But after visiting all 159 counties, I can tell you that we have so much in common and as governor, I will fight for all Georgians, not just the ones that voted for me.”
Of course, not everyone was ready to pull together and unite as Georgians, even for just the day. Former State Representative and Democratic State Party Chairman DuBose Porter decided to set a different tone stating of Governor Kemp, “His term is already marked by weak leadership and failure to work on behalf of voters as he abandons his campaign promises. Governor Brian Kemp will forever have a cloud over his head and an asterisk by his name.”
Knowing Brian Kemp, my prediction is that Porter’s comments will be the “asterisk” as the rest of the state comes to know the Brian Kemp so many of us already do.
Yesterday was not just a day for Republicans to celebrate a hard-fought victory, just our third GOP Governor in a row after more than a century in the Georgia political wilderness, but a day to remember that the mandate we received was to do our best work for all Georgians, not just the ones who supported the candidates we fought to elect. If we do that, we will not just have a better state for all Georgia, but a record of success to carry us for the four years after that.