The top four contenders for the Republican nomination as governor are preparing to take turns appearing before the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
More than 100 Chamber members have gathered at the group’s office across from Centennial Olympic Park to hear from Nathan Deal, Karen Handel, Eric Johnson and John Oxendine one-by-one.
Questions will come from WSB news guy Bill Nigut, now with the Anti-Defamation League.
The Metro Chamber, it appears, decided it was a good idea to embrace a free and open press, unlike some other organizations.
Update 12:12 p.m.: Deal, the former congressman from Hall County, said he will vote in favor of the regional sales tax to fund transportation projects and said he supports many of the same priorities as the Metro chamber.
“The plan that the Metro chamber has advocated is certainly, as I see, is one I can endorse,” Deal said. “It includes a variety of different aspects of transportation, lite rail, expanded lanes on interstates.”
Deal also said that on water he would support some level of interbasin transfers within the state, despite the inevitable outcry from some corners of Georgia. On taxes, Deal said his plan to cut the corporate income tax would create jobs.
Update 12:26 p.m.: Handel, the former secretary of state, said money isn’t everything when it comes to education.
“I’m going to take great exception to putting the entire education questoinj in terms of money,” Handel said.
She said it’s not a question of a “magic bullet answer,” that many things need to change, including greater efficiencies and a focus on channeling resources to front-line educators.
On transportation, Handel said she, too, will support the sales tax referendum and said the state has to “deal with the transit issue.”
As for MARTA, Handel said she would try and replicate the turn around at Grady Memorial Hospital since a new governing model was implemented.
Update 12:48 p.m: Johnson, a former state senator from Savannah, said he would champion an education plan that would offer a $5,000 voucher for students to attend private schools. The money, he said, would come from the state’s portion of per-student funding.
“I never claimed it’s a magic bullet or it’s the only thing,” Johnson said. “It’s the key aspect of improving education. That’s the only way you can really hold our system accountable.”
On water, Johnson said the state and local governments might have to use the power of eminent domain to acquire land necessary for new reservoirs or transfers from one basin to another.
Johnson also said he would support interbasin transfers, not because he likes it but because it might be necessary. He would not support the transfers as a forced permanent situation.
On immigration, Johnson said if Georgia adopts an Arizona-style immigration law, the state’s image to potential global partners will not suffer.
“I don’t think they’re connected,” he said. “We are for legal immigration. We are educating legal immigrants with valid studenet visas all through our university system. And hopefully keeping them here.”
Legal immigrants, Johnson said, “agree with cracking down on illegal immigration.”