In the last debate before Georgia primaries, Democratic candidates for governor took shots at the front-runner, former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes.
Barnes was a one-term Governor; he lost a re-election in 2002 to Sonny Perdue.
Barnes’ closest rival, Attorney General Thurbert Baker, accused his opponent of making promises that are impossible to keep. He pointed out that Barnes’ plan to hire more teachers, firefighters and policemen along with other spending, would add up to over $2 billion – yet he doesn’t show where he’d get the money.
“First, you said you’d find the money by raising various sales taxes. Then you excluded almost all of them one by one,” Baker said. “What I’d like to know governor, is which taxes would you raise to pay for your promises and which promises would you break?”
Barnes said his record should speak for itself. “”The reason I can do it is because I have done it before,” he said.
Speaking of his record, a lot of it was also attacked during the debate. In particular, Barnes’ vote against Martin Luther King holiday and weakening teacher tenure were criticized.
House Minority Leader DuBose Porter added to the fire by accusing the former governor of abandoning Democrats after his 2002 loss.
“When you came back to run for governor you said you weren’t sure whether you wanted to be a Whig or a Democrat,” said Porter. “Roy, are you a Whig or a Democrat?”
But Barnes, always witty and quick on his feet, seized the moment to capitalize on the “anti-party” sentiments sweeping the country.
“Well, I’ll tell you this,” Barnes replied. “I’m tired of the nuts on both sides.” Obviously, so is the electorate.
But for the most part, Barnes’ didn’t take the bait, instead focusing on his Republican opponents. He criticized the Republican idea to do away with state income tax, proposed by GOP’s Karen Handel and John Oxendine. Barnes said such move would lead to closure of public schools, prisons, and other public services.
“It’s the most irresponsible act I have ever heard,” said Barnes. “You either have to close the public schools down or you have to let all the prisoners loose, build no roads or bridges, pave no roads, give assistance to no person and cut off all grants to local governments.”
Barnes has been leading in the Democratic race since the very beginning, most recently polling with 59% of the vote. His closest challenger is Baker with a distant 16% of support.
Georgia primaries will take place Tuesday, July 20, 2010. Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. All voters have to bring identification; those who received a letter asking to bring proof of citizenship will have to show it before voting.