The Republican race for governor has gotten tighter and nastier in the closing days of the campaign and a new mail piece landing in mailboxes is just the latest salvo.
Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine’s gubernatorial campaign has sent a glossy, 4-page mailer that depicts former Secretary of State Karen Handel as pro-gay and pro-abortion. See Oxendine’s mailer here.
“Karen Handel talks about family values … but what’s her real record?” the mailer says.
It features unflattering photos of Handel and several pictures of abortion- and gay-rights protests.
While the shots at Handel are very prominent, much less so is who is responsible for the piece.
Oxendine’s name only appears in a hard-to-read disclaimer along the left side of page 3, where it reads: “Paid for by Oxendine Working for Georgians Inc.”
Handel dismissed the mailer as”vile” and “full of outright lies.”
“That’s just over the line,” Handel said. “This is politics, but it doesn’t make it right. You’re seeing a candidate who is falling in the polls and consequently, he’s flailing.”
As for the difficulty in determining that Oxendine sent the piece, Handel called her opponent a “coward.”
“It was clearly done in a way to mislead people and hide who sent the piece,” Handel said. “The average voters does not know.”
Oxendine’s campaign, however, said they “100 percent stand by this mailer,” campaign manager Stephen Puetz said.
They support it, he said, because “it’s all true. Karen is a liberal and she’s lied about her liberal past.”
Puetz said Handel is the only major Republican candidate not endorsed by Georgia Right to Life, a leading abortion-rights opposition group. Handel has said the group did not endorse her because while she opposes abortion, she would allow limited legal abortions in cases where the mother’s life is threatened.
As for gay rights, Puetz said Handel has lied about being a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group organized by gay members of the GOP. The AJC’s PolitiFact Georgia gave Handel a “Pants On Fire” rating for denying her affiliation with the group.
“This is really about an integrity issue with her,” Puetz said. “It’s one thing that she has changed her positions, or she says she no longer has these positions. All these positions are well documented. The fact that she continues to act like they never existed is, quite frankly, outrageous.”
Handel, too, is out with a tough new mail piece that slams Oxendine and the other two major players in the race, former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal and former state Sen. Eric Johnson. The mail piece continues Handel’s theme of accusing the trio of questionable ethics.
“Three who look out for themselves,” it says beneath unflattering photos of Deal, Oxendine and Johnson, and “only one who looks out for us” next to Handel’s photo.
See Handel’s mailer here.
“She had already put out two negative mailers,” Puetz said. “And she has a negative TV ad, the only one of the campaign. She’s run an entire race, an entire race up to this point, doing nothing but attacking her opponents.”
Oxendine, by contrast, Puetz said, has run largely on championing his Contract with Georgia policy positions and only in the past week has started to draw contrasts with Handel through this mailer and a tough ad of his own.
Polls, not coincidentally, have shown the race tightening. A poll released Wednesday by the AJC and the Georgia Newspaper Partnership, show Oxendine with 31 percent, Handel 23 percent and Deal 18 percent. Given the margin of error of 5 percentage points, the race could be much tighter.