Rep. Bordeaux adjusts to minority status; says our party needs to adjust too, including talking more about the impact of faith on our political views.
Once a powerful chairman, Bordeaux adjusts to minority status.
State Rep. Tom Bordeaux says his party needs to adjust, too.
By Brandon Larrabee
Savannah Morning News
and Morris News Service
February 26, 2005
When he took to the well of the House earlier this month, his emotions rising, Rep. Tom Bordeaux conceded that his long fight was over.
In recent years, Bordeaux had become the bogeyman of those looking to cap jury awards in medical malpractice cases. Bordeaux, a trial lawyer and Savannah Democrat, had used his clout as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to bottle up measures that he believed damaged the rights of patients hurt by negligent doctors.
But Republicans have the House, and when a special committee sent the malpractice measure to the floor that day, Bordeaux knew he was powerless to prevent it from passing.
It has been a long year for Bordeaux.
Late in last year's legislative session, then-House Speaker Terry Coleman, D-Eastman, stripped Bordeaux of his chairmanship because his committee wouldn't send malpractice caps to the floor.
Then, in November, the Democratic majority that had given Bordeaux much of his influence was wiped away in a GOP tidal wave.
For his part, Bordeaux said his job hasn't changed much since his party tumbled into the minority.
"It's the same as it's always been, and that's to try to get the best legislation passed and stop the bad legislation from passing. It's a lot harder to do that now," Bordeaux said.
And the methods he uses have to be a little different.
"You have to be more clever, you have to be more strategic," he said. "In a lot of ways, you have to be more vocal at the right times. You have to appeal continually to the legislature's sense of fair play and justice. ...
"And you have to have a hide made of leather."
Bordeaux says his party hasn't quite adjusted to being in the minority.
"Frankly, for some of our members, I think we need to develop a fire in the belly," he said.
The party needs to talk more about the impact of faith on its political views, Bordeaux said, who added his Christian faith is a major influence in his being a Democrat.
"I know this is going to sound like pandering, but the truth is, I think I'm a Democrat because I'm a Christian," he said. "I believe that God wants us to help the oppressed, to do justice, to be good stewards of the environment, to do everything Jesus commanded us to do. I see the Democrats as the party that traditionally has done that."
But some observers, particularly those on the other side of the aisle, question whether the 15-year lawmaker can remain effective with a GOP stranglehold on the General Assembly.
"The only way to be effective in the minority is to stand for your principles without being dogmatic," said Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, a Savannah Republican who was the minority leader in the upper chamber for several years. "And Rep. Bordeaux runs the risk of being dogmatic."
Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said Bordeaux can still make an impact.
"There's certainly no way he's going to enjoy the influence he had when was chair of the Judiciary Committee," Bullock said.
But Bordeaux could get some legislation through the General Assembly, particularly if he's willing to let a GOP lawmaker take the credit.
"You can have good ideas, but you have to also realize that your good ideas may be co-opted by somebody in the majority," Bullock said.
For his part, Bordeaux said he doesn't plan on giving up any time soon.
"As I understand what God wants, He wants me and others to fight the good fight," he said. "And that's the reward."