It may be a little early to start discussing the 2018 Columbus mayor’s race, but a local publication threw out a name that will get the attention of anyone considering entry into the race.
The Courier/Eco Latino had a cover story with a large photo of state Rep. Calvin Smyre and a headline that read: “Calvin Smyre: Your Rent Is Due; It’s Time To Run For Mayor Of Columbus, Georgia.”
Smyre will not talk about it. He would not even entertain questions about it this week via text from Atlanta, where he is in his 43rd year in the General Assembly. No lawmaker in Atlanta has been there longer. And he is respected on both sides of the aisle.
The Courier said it’s time for Smyre to come home and seek the mayor’s job when Teresa Tomlinson finishes her second term in 22 months.
Wane Hailes, the newspaper’s publisher and the author of the commentary, won’t say much, either.
“No comment,” he said Tuesday morning when asked about it.
Some will say it is too early to have this discussion. If you think about the fact that qualifying for the race is 13 months away and the election would be May 22, 2018, maybe it isn’t.
But there is a reason Smyre is not talking: he is in the middle of a difficult legislative fight involving casino gambling, which appears to be the flavor of the month in the General Assembly.
If the casino gambling bill is to pass the General Assembly, Smyre is going to have to be a player on the Democratic side. The Republican-controlled General Assembly will not get casino gambling on the ballot for Georgians to decide it without significant Democratic help.
And Smyre has been clear: if it is going to pass, he wants Columbus in consideration as one of the possible sites.
Which brings us back to Smyre for Mayor in 2018. It is a distraction — a big distraction that takes away from the task at hand between now and March 30 when the session is scheduled to end.
Smyre likes things in nice, neat packages. He isn’t much for distractions.
That commentary could have been written in early April, and the discussion would be totally different than it is today. I suspect in early April, Smyre would be willing to entertain it in a way that he is not now.
He may be in the minority party under the Gold Dome, but he is not a minor player right now.
Hailes makes his case for why Smyre, who has won 22 consecutive elections and only faced opposition a couple of times, should run citywide for the mayor’s office.
“For years now the African American community has asked who would not only be the first person of color to be elected to serve as our mayor but the best qualified,” Hailes wrote in the Feb. 16 edition. “We need to look no further. No one, black, white or Hispanic is more qualified on all levels to lead our city than State Representative Calvin Smyre.”
It would be hard to argue that Smyre, a retired Synovus executive, is not qualified. And Hailes points that out.
“He has been a proven leader and effective representative of the 135th District for the past 43 years,” Hailes wrote. “It’s time for him to bring those 43 years of relationships, consensus building and legislative knowledge home to Columbus and answer our call to serve. ... Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth. Calvin Smyre, your rent is due. Your community is calling. What are you going to do?”
If Smyre gets serious about this, that will change the discussion.