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Perry – With their election less than three weeks away, Democratic candidate for governor Roy Barnes and Republican Nathan Deal returned to their bare-knuckle slugfest over ethics on Thursday during a feisty debate before hundreds of boisterous spectators here.
Deal accused Barnes of representing legal cases before judges he appointed when he was governor. Deal’s campaign has repeatedly alleged Barnes’ law practice prospered in part because of those activities.
“Could you explain to us why you did not disclose this to the public because I believe it is a serious issue,” Deal said.
Barnes said he personally tried only one case before a judge he appointed and that his law firm appeared before others on motions and injunctions. He added that he appointed Deal’s son, Jason, as a district attorney and that he once appeared before his son after his son became a judge.
“I appeared before him and he ruled in favor of me. Are you saying your son is corrupt?” Barnes said.
Later in the debate, Barnes shot back at Deal, accusing him of mixing public business with private business when he was a congressman. Barnes referred to how in 2005 Deal and his congressional staff intervened with state officials — including Attorney General Thurbert Baker — to advocate for a landfill he and a partner wanted to build in Gainesville.
“I want you to tell the people here one person, one constituent, other than you or your business partner, that you ever went to the attorney general about and asked him to help you change the law to fit that constituent,” Barnes said.
Deal defended the landfill project. And after the debate, he told reporters he had no financial interest in it.
“This landfill situation ought to be one that we are proud of,” Deal said. “I don’t make any apologies for that. This is the first time that you can find where a private individual is willing to go in and spend their own money to take an unlined sanitary landfill and put that in a liner to protect the community.”
Libertarian John Monds largely stayed out of the fray.
“What most people have noticed is I don’t get into personal attacks. I talk about real issues facing Georgians,” Monds said. “What I’m trying to do with you is share a message. And the message is this: We know what works… And that is more freedom, more liberty, the respect for individual rights, letting people keep the hard-earned money they are working for instead of giving it to government.”
The three candidates debated before a cheering – and sometimes booing – crowd in a cavernous auditorium at the fairgrounds. The hour-long debate touched on a variety of subjects, including illegal immigration, taxes, the tri-state water war and Georgia’s projected budget deficit.