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COMMENTARY: Is the Georgia GOP Making a Mistake with Pence Coming to Savannah for St. Pat's?

Category: Editorial & Opinion

By Lou Phelps, Publisher, Coastal Empire News

March 12, 2018 – UPDATED 5:00 p.m. - You have to wonder, who ASKED Vice President Mike Pence to walk in this coming Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade?  We’ve confirmed that he’s coming, and will walk ‘a portion of the parade route.’  

On first blush, my reaction was: ‘It’s an honor for the city and the event, and good for the tourism industry. The national TV pool photographers who travel with him will cover his visit, feeding it to every network. The Olympics opening ceremony, and then St. Patrick’s in Savannah. Wow.’   

But,  after another sip of coffee, I was quickly hit with the downside. Who needs this security headache?  Do we REALLY want to be the city that egged the VP? And, does anyone realize that even a lot of Republicans can't stand him or his views?  

Update at 5:00 p.m. - Families will not be allowed on certain squares - no tents, no coolers, etc. - who have had family traditions for generations. Look for the Secret Service ... we're hearing a contingent of 500 Secret Service agents - to block and clear roadways in the path that he will travel, as well.  Another source has confirmed that a Secret Service contingent was in Savannah two months ago looking at medical facilities. 

There is already the brewing dynamic of a major crowd here, with St. Pat’s on a Saturday, and the weather forecast of three days of warm, sunny temps in the high 70's to low 80's. Locals understand well that that will bring the crowds, and we're looking at a three-day drunk.

Both the St. Patrick’s Day Committee and local officials and law enforcement have worked for months to prepare for the parade, to have a solid plan for crowd control and public transportation in order to handle the two-day festival, trying to keep a lid on things.  They keep trying to remind everyone that this 'is intended to be family event.'  Do they really NEED the Secret Service, helicopters over head, and SWAT teams in place? 

Each year, they keep tweaking all of the planning to minimize public drunkedness and the number of necessary arrests. A recent report completed by the Savannah City Council reinforced that there is a significant negative impact to 46% of the local businesses in the Historic District ... not to mention the swelling exhaustion by residents who have had enough of tourists, road races and drunken weekends that many feel has ruined their city they were born and raised in. 

But beyond all this … is this a politically a good idea for the Georgia GOP? 

The statewide Governor and Lt. Governor’s race are fluid, and becoming more so almost daily.  There appears to be a growing reality that Democrat Stacy Abrams will not only win her primary in May, but has a real shot at the Governor’s Mansion in November.

None of the political pundits know just how much more purple Georgia has become since 2016, an election where President Trump only carried Georgia by 1.5% over Hillary.  

And that was two years ago, before the #metoo movement, before the growing pro-gun-control movement by parents and educators, and before Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle threatened Delta Airlines. That action, alone, threw Georgia Republicans in the Legislature into the national spotlight, threatening to damage the progressive image that Gov. Deal has worked eight years to protect. 

Then last Friday, the second most powerful man in the Georgia Senate, Republican Sen. David Shafer, the leading – really shoo-in – candidate for Lt. Governor in November, was hit with a major sexual harassment legal case by a long-time, hardball female lobbyist, represented by a top legal team. Those around the Statehouse state that there is no question that there is a highly level of validity to her allegations, though Shafer absolutely denies them. 

The problem is, he is not the ONLY top GOP candidate about whom there is significant insinuation about problems with female employees at the Republican-controlled State House.  I've been waiting for THAT shoe to drop for awhile.  Because, if I've heard the talk, you can be darn sure the AJC reporters under the Golden Dome know, as well.  

With all of this, is it really smart to bring Pence to Savannah to face angry women protesters, angry parents and teachers who want gun-control, and an angry gay-population that is stunned, angry and scared about Pence’s personal statements and views regarding an LGBTQ lifestyle?  Further, he represents an administration that is some times overtly, sometimes subtly,  discriminatory in its statements and actions. 

Do we really need protests and counter-protests here on the day we honor our Irish heritage, in a county that gave Trump only 40% support in 2016?  This is not 'Trump Country.

The President hasn't even agreed to fund the Harbor Deepening.  At least if Pence was bringing a check with him, you might understand it more. 

On the plus side, Savannah does not have a history of violent protests.  We complain alot, but we have never broken into a Ferguson, MO, even when we're really upset.  We've been a very civil city, taking out our frustrations at the ballot box. 

Pence's visit will be a test of how strong some of these movements are. The worry is that his visit will bring protesters from across the State, as well.   

So, you have to wonder ... is this another mis-played move by the Georgia Republican Party"

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