Friday, July 14, 2006

"That Republican" Dan Ponder

Let's get something clear about "that Republican" working as Cathy Cox's campaign chair. For months, I've heard Taylor supporters refer to Dan Ponder, Jr. as if he were something to discard and despise. Well lets take a little walk down history lane with one Mr. Dan Ponder, Jr., former State Rep. from Donalsonville, GA.

As Sophia Petrillo would say, "picture it," Atlanta 2000. Georgians were trying to pass a hate crimes bill that would stiffen penalties for those who commit "hate crimes." Things were not looking good. Republicans and more than a few conservative Democrats were standing in the way of passing this bill. That's when Rep. Dan Ponder, Jr. stepped into the well of the Georgia House and told his personal story that left the House completely stunned.

"That Republican" made an emotional and heartfelt argument to pass the hate crimes bill. It was one of those rare moments where people on both sides of the aisle sat up and took notice knowing that they were not witnessing a stump speech, but taking a look into a man's soul. Ponder forgot about the "R" next to his name and he spoke his feelings on why Georgia needed a hate crimes bill. Without that speech, in 2000, Georgia would not have a hate crimes bill today.

Ponder's story reached well accross the borders of Georgia. He became an invited speaker, not just in this country, but all over the world to share his story and why he believed in the need to punish those in this world who commit crimes out of sheer hate for people for the sole sin of being different from themselves.

For standing in the face of opposition from not only his own party, but also from even some Democrats, "that Republican" Dan Ponder, Jr. was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award. To add to the distinction, on the same day, Gov. Roy Barnes was also given the award for leading the fight to remove the Confederate Battle emblem from the Georgia state flag.

Here is what President Kennedy's daughter, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, had to say about "that Republican:"

“Georgia State Representative Dan Ponder proves that one voice can truly make a difference,” Ms. Kennedy continued. “By articulating his personal experience, and finding the courage to do so, he empowered others to act courageously and do the right thing. Today, his words against hate continue to inspire people around the globe. It is an honor to recognize and applaud these three outstanding individuals whose unselfish contributions to public service and courageous acts of leadership have advanced their states and enriched our nation.”

And from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on Dan Ponder, Jr.:

His speech made all the difference. The hate crimes bill had been about to be defeated, but it passed by an overwhelming vote. It's one of the all-time great political speeches, and I hope everyone who hears about it will read it. I intend to put it on my website this afternoon.

The fact that Dan Ponder, a Republican, works for Cathy Cox, Democrat, is significant. But not for the reason that some Taylor supporters would have you to believe. It's significant because there are also Republicans who are tired of "big guys" like Sonny Perdue and Mark Taylor. They're tired of partisan bickering, backbiting, and rancorous one-upmanship that both of those men seem to revel in, but gridlocks the state.

Lets not forget that Mark Taylor is one of the reasons why Sonny Perdue is a Republican governor today. Taylor's "cry me a river" speech to Perdue and others who Taylor didn't get along with was part of the inspiration that fueled Republicans to take the state away from us. And once Perdue found his way into office, Republicans, who now controlled the senate, made sweeping changes to take away significant powers from Taylor as the senate president. Then, Sonny tried to evict Cathy Cox from the state capitol to remove her further from the seat of power, for the single crime of refusing to become a Republican.

Maybe these are reasons why people like Dan Ponder have had enough. And they're ready to look past the "D's" and "R's" and find someone committed to fresh ideas and real change. So if Ponder wants to urge Republicans and Independents to join him in voting for Cathy in the Democratic primary, then I see nothing wrong with that. The difference from this and any other "cross-over vote" is that those same Republicans and Indpendents, tired of politics from "big guys" like Taylor and Perdue, will also vote for Cathy in November. Without people who think independently and come over to our side, we will not win in Nov. regardless of who is our nominee.

So for those that don't believe that Cathy would be any more successful in working with what we already know will be a Republican dominated legislature, just remember "that Republican" is Cathy's campaign chair. Dan inspired the Georgia House to change its mind on hate crimes; and Cathy inspired Dan to shun Perdue and work for her. Democrats, now a minority, can no longer get things done on their own. It will take a spirit of bipartisanship.

Who do you think will make that work?


Lyman Hall said...

I'm looking forward to your piece detailing how Marvin Griffin and other conservatives in Bainbridge are just misunderstood.

Button Gwinnett said...

Lyman, attacking the people of Bainbridge, Mark Taylor's hometown of Albany, etc. (and let's face it any place outside of Atlanta) isn't a very smart thing to do. There are a lot of conservative and moderate Democrats that your guy needs to win down there.

The post is about Dan Ponder, a target of Taylor supporters. Do try to stay on topic.