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Election year nuttiness arrives

POSTED: October 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Never pay a root doctor in another state with a rubber check for casting a voodoo curse on a political rival. If you do, the dark spell is liable to bounce back, just like the check.
Police say Cobb County Commissioner Annette Kesting must have been unaware of that hard-and-fast rule of Georgia politics. The commish is alleged to have contracted with a voodoo “high priestess” (known in some quarters as a root doctor) in South Carolina to cast a deadly spell over fellow Democrat Woody Thompson, who defeated her in the primary.
Kesting admits she was “upset” when Thompson defeated her, but denies she tried to put a hex on him. Voodoo high priestess George Ann Mills says otherwise. Kesting paid her $3,000 in worthless checks to whack Woody with a curse, she told investigators. As for Thompson, he says he doesn’t believe in voodoo, but he’s still a bit nervous about the whole thing.
Not to worry, Woody, you’ve received a million dollars worth of free publicity. Besides, voodoo spells bought with funny money never work. Everybody knows that.
Thompson, a former commissioner, ought to feel proud. He is no longer just another Democrat trying to make a comeback. He is now part of a proud Georgia tradition that has a special place in our great history: Election season is a time for weird happenings across the Peach State. The voodoo curse fits right in with the long list of bizarre phenomena around election time in Georgia.
In the 1940s, dead people in a Telfair County precinct voted in alphabetical order for Herman Talmadge for governor. That ghostly occurrence has never been completely explained. However, the voting dead were partly instrumental in launching a series of events that left Georgia with three governors and made our state famous throughout the civilized world.
Just as our three-governor fame began to fade, Nick Belluso appeared on the scene and announced for governor. In 1978 the metro Atlanta investment counselor hired a hypnotist to appear in his television ads to mesmerize the entire electorate and instruct them to vote for Belluso for governor. It didn’t work. George Busbee was re-elected. Belluso barely scratched.
Yet Nick’s faith in the power of suggestion was unshaken. In 1982 he tried another stunt. Belluso legally changed his name to Nick Reagan Belluso, a move he hoped would provide a connection in the voters’ mind to his hero, President Ronald Reagan. Nick Reagan Belluso received only 20 percent of the vote in a race for secretary of state against Max Cleland. “Georgia voters obviously don’t want me, so I am moving to Florida,” Belluso told reporters as he packed up and headed south.
There are so many stories that keep alive Georgia’s grand tradition of election-time nuttiness. How about state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko, who stole enough education cash to finance her bid for governor and get a facelift? Who could forget state Sen. Roscoe Dean who conspired to organize an illegal drug cartel on the Georgia coast to finance his campaign for governor? Roscoe had just one small problem: His co-conspirators were undercover GBI agents. Alas, poor Roscoe was arrested and sent to prison.
Then there was the candidate for governor who drove around Georgia with a portable electric chair hitched to his car, and another guy, a biker, who campaigned for governor to gain publicity for his bid to become president of his motorcycle club.
Of course, Georgia’s most unusual high-profile politician may have been Lester Maddox, an Atlanta restaurant owner who handed out pick handles — some called them clubs — as campaign souvenirs on his way to becoming governor.
To keep alive the true spirit of Maddox, Schrenko, Belluso and the voodoo queen, we need at least one more notably curious event before the Nov. 4 election. How about inviting Sarah Palin to come to Georgia for homecoming? She would certainly inspire more excitement than our gradually disintegrating Bulldogs, and she might do something worthy of inclusion on our all-time strange happenings list.

You can reach Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net, or Web address: billshipponline.com.
 

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