Beautiful flowers sat in Red McDaniel's seat last week. His chair will be left vacant at Tuesday's meeting of Columbus Council, but quiet conversations have already begun about who will represent the people of District 8.
McDaniel died Nov. 3, bringing to an end 38 years of serving on council. It will be up to his former colleagues to decide who should hold his seat for the next 18 months until voters in that district properly elect a new counselor.
Names are already floating around, and some potential candidates are openly campaigning for McDaniel's job using letters, phone calls and emails. These folks are ahead of the game because council isn't really sure what direction it can legally take.
Attorneys offer conflicting opinions about whether the appointee must live in District 8 or whether council can choose from a citywide pool. The charter is clear about who can run for the spot, but isn't so clear about who can be appointed. However, if council selects someone who lives in the district, that issue would be moot.
The list of hopefuls contains two total newcomers, three former candidates and a person well known among voters in District 8.
Walker Garrett, a local lawyer, and Craig Norris, an active volunteer in several recent campaigns, are the newcomers. The former candidates are Jeremy Hobbs, who twice ran against McDaniel; Sunny Rinker, who ran against State Rep. Richard Smith in 2004; and Brinkley Pound, who ran for the Muscogee County School Board in 2010.
A name that is interesting and surprising is Tom Buck, who retired in 2003 after 38 years in the Georgia House of Representatives. Like Rinker, he is telling councilors that he wants to fill out McDaniel's unexpired term but isn't interested in running in 2016.
The former legislator has let several councilors know he's available, and they are excited that he is willing to return to the political arena. The fact that he and McDaniel lived on the same street for so many years makes his name even more intriguing.
If these names get to the council table on Tuesday, others could be proposed so this discussion might be premature, but as Red McDaniel would remind us, in the game of politics it is never too early to talk.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.