The Republican voters of Georgia have chosen Nathan Deal to carry the banner for them in the governor’s race? I confess I didn’t see that coming. They went with the guy whom a good government group once labelled “one of the 15 most corrupt members of Congress?” He’s the reincarnation of Gene Talmadge.
When the contest began in earnest, a total of seven contenders had entered the field to win the GOP nomination for governor. As my colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin wrote in July:
On the Republican side of the gubernatorial campaign, the seven-candidate race has essentially boiled down to a four-person contest with Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine the acknowledged front-runner and former Secretary of State Karen Handel, former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal and former state Sen. Eric Johnson battling for second.
Once Oxendine’s baggage became too much for the voters, I figured that left Johnson and Handel.
Johnson’s politics are very different from mine, but he is experienced and seemed to have the politics to appeal to Georgia’s conservatives. Handel had turned herself inside out to appease the state’s rightwing, rejecting a host of moderate principles she had endorsed earlier. But at least she had never been accused of corruption. And the endorsement of Sarah Palin gave her campaign added excitement.
But the voters choose Deal.
Let’s review, shall we?
He has signed up with the worst excesses of the nativists; he’s an early sponsor of an ugly proposal to change the 14th Amendment, to strip birthright citizenship. Republicans used to consider the 14 Amendment one of their proudest achievements.
He has cozied up to the birthers by demanding that President Obama prove that he is an American citizen. That was a reversal for Deal, who had earlier been sane enough to say that he was satisfied that Obama was born in the USA.
But that’s not the worst of it. He’s as sleazy as they come. As the AJC has reported, he apparently used his office to line his pockets:
U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, a Republican candidate for governor in 2010, personally intervened with Georgia leaders to preserve an obscure state program that earns his company nearly $300,000 a year.
Deal on three occasions in the past year and a half met with state Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham to question proposed changes Graham wanted to make in the way Georgia inspects rebuilt salvaged vehicles. Deal coordinated his efforts through the office of a political ally, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
Also, Deal’s chief of staff used his congressional e-mail account to contact Georgia Senate and Revenue Department staff to discuss the plans and to set appointments for Deal to meet with officials, including Cagle.
Deal and Ken Cronan own and operate Recovery Services Inc., also known as Gainesville Salvage & Disposal, which for nearly 20 years has enjoyed a lucrative agreement with the state that earned the company $1.5 million from 2004 through 2008, according to state records. The company provides a location and equipment for state inspectors to examine salvaged vehicles. Deal and Cronan never had to compete for the business, state officials said.
Deal personally earns up to $150,000 a year from the enterprise, according to reports he files with the U.S. House.
Graham has tried for years to expand the system through competitive bidding or privatization.
Ultimately, Deal prevailed; the program, which at least two state leaders call a monopoly, remains unchanged — for the time being.
Deal, a top contender to replace Gov. Sonny Perdue, says he has done nothing wrong and has acted as any business owner and citizen would in speaking to state officials about a program he says saves lives and brings revenue to state coffers. He also said he has often worked with state officials on issues important to constituents.
He fled Congress just ahead of the ethics posse, and a federal grand jury has subpoenaed information related to Deal’s deal with the state of Georgia. (His attorney says he is not the subject of the probe.)
This is the guy supported by voters who claim they’re sick of politics as usual?