Posted by: The Last Liberal Gwinnettian | October 24, 2010

AJC Offers Comprehensive Overview of Gubernatorial Candidates

The AJC, as part of its ongoing election coverage, posted several comprehensive reviews of the three candidates for governor: Democrat Roy Barnes, Republican Nathan Deal, and Libertarian John Monds.

None of these articles contains much new information, but they were still quite edifying given that they provided such an overall view of the candidates — not simply the scandals that have made the papers in recent months, but also the candidates’ former actions while in past positions.

We’ll start with Deal: “Deal’s steady tone seen as strong suit

  • Evidently, by “steady tone” they meant “lack of any significant contributions.” The article lists a few areas in which Nathan Deal has been influential (more on those in a moment), but for the most part, the article seems to underscore the absolute lack of any real accomplishments while in office: “But for most of political life, Deal, 68, has been reserved and unremarkable…In his last partial session in Congress, Deal voted with other Republicans 93 percent of the time. He sponsored 10 bills and co-sponsored 98, none of which became law. Even when Republicans controlled Congress and he was at the height of his own political power in the mid-1990s, he seldom introduced legislation on his own and rarely got anything passed.” In other words, it seems that Deal spent most of his time in Congress voting along party lines and sponsoring bills that never passed. Gee, what a record to run on.
  • Some of the accomplishments that Deal actually does have are pretty pathetic. It seems that he is best known for his accessibility to his constituents — which, don’t get me wrong, is a good thing. But only when you are actually attempting to help everyone, not just a handful of the people who vote for you and fund your campaigns. For example, one of the constituents interviewed for the article discussed how wonderful it was to have such access to a man who could actually help out — “Tom Oliver, chairman of the Hall County Commission, has known Deal for years and is a big supporter. Part of the reason, Oliver said, is because of Deal’s attention to the needs of Hall County and to the needs of Oliver’s business, poultry.” We’ve already seen how tenacious Deal can be when acting on behalf of a constituent — just look at how hard he worked to help out that “constituent” who needed a landfill rezoned and a private road taken care of with tax dollars! Oh wait…yeah, that “constituent” was himself…whoops.
  • Among Deal’s other accomplishments: He cut Medicaid costs by requiring people to prove their legal status (okay, I can get behind that) and by reducing the cost of such drugs as Viagra (wait…really?); and he “beat back Democratic attempts to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program” (SCHIP, for the record, insures millions of children in the state of Georgia through a program known as Peachcare, and when this was “beat back” it placed a huge burden on the states to find funding for these vital programs) while pushing for subsidies for prescriptions for seniors (which would seem more gracious if his biggest campaign funders didn’t include pharmaceutical companies). All in all, not a very impressive list of accomplishments after decades in office.
  • A minor and outdated issue to be sure, but something that caught my eye: “In 1995, Deal would switch parties, formally marking his transition to a more conservative lawmaker. Not only did it fit his own values better, he said, it fit the values of his district…’I think it really reflects the constituents I was elected to represent,’ Deal said in a recent interview. ‘They too have become more conservative over a period of time.'” This despite the fact that Nathan Deal said before his 1994 election that he didn’t think it would be “honest” to “run with one party label and then, after the election, change parties.” I am still bothered by this (pardon the term) “flip-flop” because I honestly agree with Deal’s original idea — that elected official who switch parties while in office should have to run again under the new party to ensure that the constituents are okay with the switch.

And now for Roy Barnes: “Barnes grabs issues by the horns

  • All in all, I think this is a fairly positive article. As a younger voter, I have difficulty remembering the details of Barnes’s first term in office — I was in high school at the time and paid little attention to local politics. This has placed me at a disadvantage when I debate with elder conservatives about this year’s election since I sometimes have trouble defending Barnes due to a lack of knowledge about his political past. Though I have made an effort to research his former term, I have found that most newspaper articles from that time cover minute issues and it has been somewhat difficult to get a comprehensive view of Barnes’s time as governor. This article does a fairly good job of that.
  • My take from the summary of Barnes’s first term is that he recognized Georgia’s problems and moved to solve them without taking the time to consult others. While that isn’t how I would like for the state to be run, it is certainly preferable to a lot of dilly-dallying and butt-scratching. Barnes has since apologized for his heavy-handed ways and vowed to be more open and considerate should he be awarded a second term. I think it may difficult for this particular zebra to change its stripes — but to be honest, I think that a little heavy-handed governing might not be remiss in the current political and economic climate. Georgia has some real problems right now, and time is certainly of the essence — I don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world for us to have a governor who is more keen on quick action than on building a consensus at this moment in time.
  • Barnes’s former education policies aligned very closely with Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. This is something I already knew, and I have always been confused as to why so many Georgians were upset by this. After all, Georgia went for Bush twice, and I heard few complaints from non-teacher Georgians regarding his educational policies. I can certainly understand why teachers were displeased with Barnes’s education policies, but I fail to see why Republicans in general seem so upset. I am willing to give Barnes a pass on his former education policies for a number of reasons: 1) at the time when he enacted his reforms, NCLB had yet to even be thought of and so the national debate which revealed many of its flaws had not yet taken place; 2) educational reform is a difficult task because no one really knows WHAT works — even charter schools, the oft heralded savior of the education system, don’t actually work (on average, charter schools routinely fail to outperform their public school counterparts) — and so the fact that Barnes took a chance on a reform which many experts at the time believed in isn’t such a bad thing; and 3) he tried and I do give credit for effort — trying to solve a problem is certainly better than ignoring it and hoping it will go away, or setting up a million stupid commissions to study the subject in hopes that it won’t come up again until after you leave office.
  • The article drives home the point that Barnes acted as a governor who wouldn’t seek a second term. I like that about him — he didn’t give a crap about what the political establishment thought, he drove ahead and did what he believed was right. I think that — in moderation, of course — this is a strength, not a weakness.
  • The issue that really killed Barnes was the flag. This is a moot issue at this point — I don’t know of a single person who actively longs for the old Georgia flag. Let’s be honest: yes, there is a strong argument for recognizing our history with the Confederacy, but that is not the reason we had the Confederate flag as our state flag. The state flag was changed to the Confederate flag during the 1950s when racism was at its height and the KKK held meetings on top of Stone Mountain. It was not put in place to encourage people to remember the history of our state, it was put in place to advertise the fact that blacks were not welcome in white Georgia. Moreover, in the 21st century, the Confederate symbol is not a warm and fuzzy emblem for our state. It is off-putting to new businesses and new residents and adds to Georgia’s image as a national laughingstock. I applaud Barnes’s removal of the Confederate flag, and while I think that our new flag is hideously ugly it is at least not a cause for embarrassment or an advertisement for blatant racism.
  • The other major criticism of Roy Barnes was that he played a large role in the redistricting that was intended to give a Democratic advantage. Big freaking whoop — name me a governor who doesn’t try to give his party an advantage at any possible turn. That doesn’t make it right, but it’s not fair to apply a double standard to Barnes. If it was Purdue in office at the time, he would have done the same thing for the Republicans and I guarantee you wouldn’t hear people complaining about it ten years later. The Republicans have plenty of control in this state, so clearly Barnes’s actions didn’t hurt them all that much. Wipe your tears and move on.
  • I’m not a fan of Barnes’s games with campaign finance law. He supposedly changed campaign finance regulations to enable him to raise more money for his reelection campaign. This really surprised me because I’ve followed the money fairly closely on both sides of this election and I’ve yet to see anything that concerned me in Barnes’s campaign financing. Perhaps he’s turned over a new leaf, but this information concerns me and I will watch closely on the campaign finance issue should Barnes manage a win in November.
  • All in all, I have gown to like Barnes for Barnes and not simply as an alternative to Deal. This article hasn’t changed that, though it has been illuminating. There is no perfect candidate in this race, and I truly believe that Barnes is the best option for this state.

And finally, a nod to the Libertarian candidate John Monds: “Monds forms ‘frugal, efficient campaign“:

  • Let me first share a bit about my relationship with the Libertarian party. I am and always have been a self-proclaimed liberal Democrat. However, I agree with the Libertarians on many issues and I hope to see the party become a true player in the political arena in years to come. My first encounter with a Libertarian occurred while I was on my high school debate team. While the team rode the bus to various debate tournaments throughout the South, we routinely engaged in political debates. These were rather one-sided however because of the 30ish people on the bus, all but 2 were generally Republicans. The exceptions were myself — a Democrat — and our assistant coach — a Libertarian. Of necessity, we often banded together to form a coalition to fend off Republican attacks. Thus, I have always had a bit of a soft spot for true Libertarians (I say “true” because many of the Libertarians I have encountered since label themselves such simply because they support the legalization of marijuana, and that isn’t exactly the definition of the party…).
  • To be honest, if I thought Monds had any shot at all of winning against Deal, I would probably be supporting him in this election. Of the three candidates, he remains the only one to stand above the fray. He has run a very clean campaign, and I admire him for that.
  • Especially after reading this article, I would like to see Monds eventually take some position of political clout. I think that Monds would be a wonderful addition to our state government, but sadly I also recognize that Monds will not be our next governor. Perhaps, however, this election might win the party enough votes to help further establish them in our state and I think that is the best to be hoped for in this election cycle.

All in all, I applaud the AJC’s efforts to create a more informed electorate. Sadly, those efforts are probably in vain.

I remain a Barnes supporter, I give props to Monds, and once again…

No Deal, Georgia.

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