The Georgia’s governor race is one of several in the nation in which a former governor seeks to reclaim a seat in 2010. Democrat Roy Barnes was elected governor in 1998 and served one four-year term. Barnes was an experienced legislator before taking the helm as governor, with eight state senate and three state house terms behind him. His support for de-emphasizing the Confederate emblem on the state flag, a stance which won him a Profile in Courage award from the John F. Kennedy Library, likely contributed to his defeat in the 2002 gubernatorial election.
Challenging Barnes in the gubernatorial race is Republican Nathan Deal who was elected to U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1992 but switched parties to become a Republican in 1995. He resigned from the House in March during his ninth two-year term to seek the Georgia governor’s post and won the Republican primary by less than 2,500 votes.
The incumbent governor, Republican George “Sonny” Perdue, is barred from running for re-election due to term limits. The Georgia governor’s seat has historically been filled by Democrats, with Perdue the first Republican to run the state since Reconstruction.
Candidate: Roy Barnes
Political experience: Barnes is a former one-term governor of Georgia as well as an eight-term state senator and three-term state legislator.
Professional experience: Prior to his entry into politics, Barnes worked as a prosecutor for the Cobb County, Ga., district attorney’s office, according to his website.
After his term as governor, Barnes spent six months working for Atlanta Legal Aid and then entered private law practice.
He earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Georgia.
Key issues: According to his website, the five issues form the core of Barnes’ gubernatorial campaign are jobs, education, transportation, water and ethics.
His jobs approach is to encourage businesses to relocate to Georgia, particularly in the biomedical field. He would also provide immediate jobs by hiring Georgians to retrofit public buildings for clean, efficient energy consumption.
On education, Barnes would invest in high-tech education and vocational education, tying education to business needs. He opposes teacher furloughs and contract re-negotiations.
“The days of only big road projects are gone,” Barnes says on transportation. He proposes an Atlanta light rail system to counteract congestion and a high-speed rail system to connect Georgia’s cities.
Georgia does not have sufficient water for its residents and water scarcity hinders development in Barnes’ view. His plan combines conservation, consumer incentives to use water-saving technology, new reservoirs and positioning the state for favorable resolution of its dispute with Florida and Alabama over the use of Lake Lanier’s waters by ensuring it is minimizing its impact on the disputed lake.
Barnes promises to repeat his prior performance as governor on ethics issues, banning gifts by lobbyists to executive branch employees. He has released his tax returns publicly and believes other candidates for public office in Georgia should do likewise.
Endorsements: Barnes has received two prominent organizational endorsements: the Georgia Association of Educators and Georgia AFL-CIO. Individuals endorsing Barnes include Ambassador Andrew Young, former Undersecretary of Agriculture Gale Buchanan, Peanut Commodities Commission Chair Armond Morris, 14 sheriffs from south Georgia, 25 sheriffs from central Georgia, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, City of Stone Mountain Mayor Patricia Wheeler, 12 state representatives and two state senators.
Chances of winning the seat: The polls give his opponent the edge, but Barnes is holding steady at 41 to 42 percent of the vote, while his opponent’s lead has declined precipitously from Aug. 11 when Rasmussen gave Deal 52 percent of the vote to Aug. 18 when Insider Advantage pegged it at 45 percent. With an 11-point spread reduced to four in a single week, Barnes’ ability to hold onto his support may prove critical in determining who takes the race.
Candidate: Nathan Deal
Political experience: Deal was elected to represent Georgia’s 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992 and served until 2010 when he resigned to run for governor. Deal served on the Committee on Energy and Commerce. During his congressional tenure, he sponsored 10 bills and co-sponsored 23 bills, none of which was enacted, according to OpenCongress.org.
Prior to his election to Congress, Deal was a Georgia state senator for 12 years.
Professional experience: After a two-year stint in the army, Deal briefly worked in private law practice, then as an assistant district attorney for the Northeastern Judicial District for a year, as described on his official congressional biography. From there he spent a year as a juvenile court judge in Hall County, Ga., and worked as a Hall County attorney for two more years before beginning his political career.
Deal received both his bachelor’s degree and his law degree from Mercer College.
Key issues: The economy, transportation, education, water, illegal immigration and health care are key issues Deal has focused on in his campaign, according to his website.
On the economy, Deal advocates a pro-growth, business-friendly environment to bring jobs to Georgia. His goal is to elevate the state from 29th to 16th in terms of tax friendliness, cutting corporate taxes by one-third and exempting small businesses from taxes altogether in their first 10 years.
Deal aims to place power over education decisions into the hands of local political leaders rather than the education establishment.
On transportation, Deal supports reducing congestion in metro Atlanta and developing a regional transportation plan.
Deal favors an anti-illegal immigration law similar to that enacted by Arizona and would support Arizona in its lawsuit with the U.S. government concerning its efforts to enforce immigration law within its borders. On the national level, he has opposed health care for illegal immigrants and ending citizenship for babies born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents. He pledges to use state constitutional powers to oppose the federal government on immigration enforcement.
To address Georgia’s water scarcity, Deal would increase the number of reservoirs and work cooperatively with the governors of Alabama and Florida to ensure Georgia’s access to disputed waters.
On health care, Deal’s platform calls for fighting the US government’s recently enacted federal health legislation.
Endorsements: Nathan Deal has received institutional endorsements from Georgia Right to Life, the NRA and GeorgiaCarry.org. His individual endorsements include his opponent in the close Republican primary, Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, as well as Rep. Jan Jones, Georgia’s first female speaker pro tem, eight district attorneys, 29 state representatives, seven state senators and five U.S. House representatives, according to his website.
Chances of winning the seat: An Aug. 11 Rasmussen poll shows Deal leading Barnes with 51 percent of the potential vote to Barnes’ 42 percent. Insider Advantage polling on Aug. 18 suggests that the race is getting closer, but still gives Deal a four-point advantage, 45 percent to 41 percent.
Electoral-vote.com rates Georgia strong Republican, yet predicts the governor’s race in 2010 will be a close one.
Key Differences between Roy Barnes and Nathan Deal
Jobs: Both candidates aim to bring new businesses to Georgia as the cornerstone of their respective jobs platform and both eye the biomedical field as a highly promising prospect. However, Barnes would aim to create public jobs in the short run as a critical part of his jobs strategy. Deal would focus on extensive tax incentives to lure businesses to the state.
Transportation: Barnes’ proposed transportation initiatives encompasses computer-friendly rail development as well as improving the state highway system. Deal supports road and rail connectivity of Georgia cities with the caveat that the building should occur when funds are available.
Education: Barnes is supporting the educational establishment, opposing furloughs and re-negotiation of teacher salaries. His focus is on technology and the linking of educational priorities to employer needs. Deal calls for removing power over the education system from educators and placing it in the control of local leaders.
Water: Both candidates advocate the building of new reservoirs. Barnes would position the state for successful litigation of its disputed Lake Lanier claims with bordering states while Deal would choose to negotiate a resolution with the governors of those states. Barnes’ proposal contains water-saving measures and consumer incentives whereas Deal’s does not.
Demographics: Georgians are predominately white, born in the U.S., and solely English speaking, according to Census Bureau data. 62.2 percent of Georgia’s 9.5 million residents describe themselves as solely white while 29.7 percent identify themselves as solely black or African American. Only 7.7 percent of Georgians of all races consider themselves Latino. 90.8 percent of Georgians are native born, and 87.9 percent speak English only at home.
Twenty-seven percent of Georgia’s adult population report holding a bachelor’s or higher degree. Educational services, health care and social services are the largest employment sectors, followed by retail trade; manufacturing; and professional, scientific, and management and administrative and waste management services. 78.2 percent of employed Georgians drive to work alone, a statistic that could be defining for voters concerned with the candidates’ transportation policies.