Posted by: The Last Liberal Gwinnettian | July 2, 2009

GaGo10: A Rundown of the Democrats

Yes, there’s still a year to go before the 2010 Georgia Gubernatorial election (November 2, by the way – mark your calendars and make sure you vote!). Still, with so many candidates running around out there, we thought it might be a good idea to start election coverage sooner rather than later.

Before we get to the candidates, let’s decide what issues are most important. For us, there are four main issues (not necessarily in any order of importance):

  1. WATER: Necessary for life on this planet, water ought to be a top concern for all Georgians. Don’t forget that just a couple years ago we were counting down the days until metro-Atlanta residents ran out of water. There was no back-up plan in place, and politicians (and the Army Corps of Engineers) were scrambling to figure out ways to ensure Georgians’ water supply. During that scramble, the rains returned. Now, just because it started raining again, no one talks about our need for a contingency plan – there still isn’t one. We are a dry month away from another water crisis, and it needs to be addressed NOW – not after Lake Lanier is bone dry.
  2. TRANSPORTATION: Atlanta is, in many ways, a wonderful city to live in, work in, and play in. Unless, of course, you want to actually go somewhere. Unfortunately, Atlanta has an absolutely horrible public transportation system that is nowhere near large enough, efficient enough, or well enough planned to support a city of this size. And that’s just inside the perimeter. Outside the perimeter, things are even worse. I think it’s safe to say that just about anyone who lives within a one hour radius of Atlanta will agree with the following statement: Atlanta and traffic are synonyms. They shouldn’t be, and we want a governor who will EFFECTIVELY address this issue.
  3. EDUCATION: We are products of the Georgia public school system. Personally, I was lucky in that I attended a national school of excellence out in lovely Gwinnett County. Most Georgians aren’t so lucky. Georgia still ranks near the bottom in most state by state education rankings. In fact, as of 2006, only Florida and Nevada had a smaller percentage of students graduate from high school. For Georgia to be a successful state, its children must grow to become well-educated adults. Corny as it may sound, education is the key to our future, and for that reason, it must be near the top of any politician’s priority list.
  4. UNEMPLOYMENT: Georgia is nearing the double digits as far as our unemployment rate goes (in fact, we may already be there). The crumbling economy isn’t just a federal issue, and regardless of what Congress or the president intend to do about it, Georgia’s politicians need to step up and find ways to revitalize the job market. If unemployment in Georgia continues to rise unabated, we will see a corresponding increase in foreclosures, poverty rates, crime, and budget deficits. Addressing unemployment is a must for any gubernatorial candidate.

We did a little internet research today to find out just what the four main Democratic candidates for governor had to say about these four issues…or really, any issues at all. The result? Apparently the candidates are far more interested in raising money and encouraging one another to drop out at this juncture.

We would like to express our extreme disappointment in the web sites (or lack thereof) of all four candidates. Roy Barnes, currently a clear front runner in most polls, doesn’t have one at all. Thurbert Baker has a web site, but it contains little more than a self-important biography. DuBose Porter also has a website – a picture of him above the words “full website coming soon.” The only candidate with anything resembling a functional website is David Poythress, but his website is also sadly disappointing. You can find information about his opinion on major issues…or so I’ve been told. I looked for about fifteen minutes, and found nothing.

Thus, everything we found regarding these candidates comes from outside sources…and even that information was sadly lacking.

A rundown:

Roy Barnes: Barnes was governor for a single term, from 1999 to 2003. The two most memorable things to come out of this term were the flag controversy (which contributed heavily to his failed re-election in 2002) and education reform controversies (basically, he criticized the education system to the point where teachers and other educators got really, really mad). He also pushed building the Northern Arc, an outer perimeter north of Atlanta. At least he looked at the idea of traffic…I guess. The only real mention of Barnes’s current stance on the issues comes from the Associated Press in a June 2009 article:

Last month, Barnes said he was concerned that special interest were setting the agenda in the Legislature and “the priorities they are really establishing – they destroy the public schools, they forget about transportation, we have no concern about our water problems because now it’s raining – I think are all the wrong priorities of the state.”

Well, I’m glad to hear that Mr. Barnes seems to have three of our four issues in the forefront of his mind…but we’d really like to see him offer some solutions rather than simply identifying the problems.

Thurbert Baker: Baker has been the Attorney General of Georgia since he was appointed by Zell Miller (you know, the one who used to be a Democrat?) in 1997. He has been elected to that position 3 times, most recently in 2006 when he defeated the Republican candidate 57.2% to 42.8%. Another important point to note is that Baker is black, and in a state whose primary Democratic constituency is black, that’s big. However, Baker doesn’t seem to enjoy the support that many black Georgian politicians receive. As Jim Galloway noted in the AJC in May 2009:

Some black leaders have balked at the causes Baker has defended. They include Republican-generated legislation to require photo ID at the ballot box—which many African-Americans regarded as a voter-suppression effort…More volatile was the case of Genarlow Wilson, who was sentenced to a mandatory 10 years in prison for consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl – an act that occurred when the young black man was 17. At one point, Baker’s office appealed a judge’s ruling that ordered Wilson’s release. Wilson was freed in 2007, but many African-Americans saw the incident as another example of a criminal system unfairly focused on the imprisonment of black men.

As far as Baker’s stance on the issues goes, he “acknowledges the need to improve both education and the economy,” and has mentioned that he hates Atlanta traffic but that he would not support a tax increase to deal with the problem. Instead, “when Baker first announced for governor, the issue at the top of his agenda was not education, the economy or transportation. It was crime.” Yes, fighting crime is important. But when ranking our state’s priorities, there are larger issues at hand.

DuBose Porter: Porter is the minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives. He is rather tech-savvy (he has a blog and everything: http://porterforgeorgia.blogspot.com/) but still doesn’t have a functioning website. Little information was gleaned in our Google search for Porter. The following is from the AJC:

“This year’s lack of leadership on transportation and personal grabs for power at the expense of the people convinced me to throw my hat into the ring,” said Porter. “Georgia deserves a governor who cares more about people than power.”…Porter has particularly criticized Republicans for annual cuts in the funding formula for Georgia’s public schools.

Well, he’s got two of our four issues going there. But again – identifying problems is all well and good, but we want to see solutions.

David Poythress: Poythress has served as both Secretary of State and Commissioner of Labor. He also served as Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard, an experience bound to help him in the more conservative counties. He ran for governor in 1998, and lost, but is hoping for better results this time. He is the only Dem with a working website, but to find his position on the issues, you have to dig deeper than I am willing to look. Personally, I don’t think that voters should have to hunt for information regarding the candidates’ stances on the issues. As a voter, I refuse. Instead, this is what I gleaned from his site:

We all want our children to finish high school (at least) with a solid education so they can compete and win in the global job market of the future. We want a transportation system that is fast, convenient and not constantly choked on automobile traffic. We want clean air and water, and we want wildlife and natural areas protected for the generations that follow us. We want economic growth and good jobs in all parts of the State – jobs that are held by legal, tax paying members of our society. We want reasonable access to good medical care everywhere in Georgia. And we want the lowest taxes and the least governmental interference in our lives as possible.

Wow. That’s a lot to want. He covers most of our major issues…plus some Republican ones (the whole small government-low taxes thing), plus the environmental ones. But again: where is the plan for how to accomplish all of this? He must have one. After all, when speaking at UGA,  he said “We need a plan for the next 50 years in both water and education.” Yes, Mr. Poythress, we do. So where is it?

Who am I endorsing? No one. Until one or more of these candidates presents a coherent list of the issues and where they fall, and some credible ideas for how to solve Georgia’s problems, I’m not backing anyone.

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