BallotBoxGenuine two-party politics takes some getting used to around Georgia. For most of our lives, winning the Democratic primary was “tantamount to election,” as all the papers used to say.

No more, however.

The more things change, the more they stay the same is what some might say, though. In many communities across Georgia, winning the Republican primary — with no Democratic opposition — can now allow candidates to coast to what is likely an easy victory in November.

Notice I say … “likely.”

It’s not a certainty.

Even though many candidates had no opposition in their primary elections, they still don’t get officially “elected” until they get at least one vote in the general election — to make it official.

That’s not always as simple as it sounds.

I remember well a race for county commission chairman in our small town of Blackshear, Georgia back in the mid-1970s. That election taught our community how very important just one vote can be.

The late Theodore Frisbie was a colorful character around town in those days. A veteran of the very first UGA football game held in Sanford Stadium back around 1918, Theo was county surveyor and a crusty curmudgeon of the highest order.

Tall and rangy, Even in his 70s, Theo still looked like he could whip his weight in wildcats. He had a wonderful sense of humor. Some even thought him to be a little strange.

One reason Theo was considered a little strange was that he had this odd habit of voting as a Republican! Over many years here in deep Southeast Georgia, the heart of yellow-dog Democrat territory, Theo sometimes cast the lone ballot in our Republican primary.

Hard to imagine today, but — trust me — things were different then.

Theo startled everyone when he announced that, not only was he going to run for chairman of the Pierce County Commission, he was going to do so as a Republican! Our community had not, in anyone’s memory, elected a Republican to anything. Most laughed at the thought.

Still, Theo paid his qualifying fee and his name was on the ballot  — unopposed for the Republican nomination as chairman of the county commission.

My front-page news the next week was picked up by Paul Harvey and used on his newscast and made headlines around the nation.

Theo lost.

That’s right. Theo Frisbie ran unopposed — and lost.

As was tradition then, all the local races were on the Democratic side of the ticket. No one wanted to “waste” a ballot voting in the GOP primary where there were no local decisions to be made.

Including even Theo. He failed to vote for himself in the GOP election and no one else did, either.

You can’t get elected if you don’t get even one vote, so Theo, despite being unopposed, lost.

So … take this as a word of caution to all you politicians feeling comfortable when you enjoy unopposed status.

You’re still a long way from being elected.

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Robert M. Williams, Jr.

Robert M. Williams, Jr.

Robert M. Williams, Jr. publishes newspapers in Blackshear, Alma, Folkston, McRae and Forsyth, Georgia and lives in Blackshear.