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By Aaron Gould Sheinin and Jeremy Redmon, AJC staff writers
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Thursday called on the Georgia GOP faithful to make Nathan Deal their governor, calling the party’s nominee a “good and decent man.”
Huckabee, who won Georgia’s 2008 Republican presidential primary, said Deal will balance the state’s budget without raising taxes.
“He uniquely understands that when you are in a hole, the first thing you do is stop digging,” Huckabee said to a crowd of about 150 outside the 57th Fighter Wing Restaurant near Peachtree-DeKalb Airport.
Huckabee also blasted Deal’s Democratic opponent, former Gov. Roy Barnes, for what Huckabee called “desperate and despicable” attacks on Deal.
“When you’re getting kicked in the behind, it proves you’re still out front,” Huckabee said.
Barnes’ campaign declined to respond to Huckabee. But Barnes on Thursday pointed to a new round of attack ads that Deal and the Republican Governors Association launched as proof that Deal has not avoided a rough-and-tumble campaign.
The ads accuse Barnes of trying 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.
Barnes has 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 Deal’s son after he became a judge.
“Congressman Deal’s attacks on Roy Barnes’ appointees show that Nathan Deal apparently thinks his own son is corrupt,” the Barnes campaign said in a news release issued Thursday. “The press should ask Congressman Deal a simple question: ‘Given your questioning of the integrity of judges across this state, do you think your son, Honorable Jason Deal, is corrupt?’”
Barnes is in the middle of a campaign bus tour across Georgia. He started the tour at a rally Wednesday just outside his campaign headquarters in Marietta. A large crowd of supporters chanted “Make Georgia Work” as Barnes and his wife, Marie, greeted them.
Barnes was scheduled to meet with The Augusta Chronicle editorial board Thursday. On Friday, he planned to visit Thomasville and Valdosta before heading to Stone Mountain, Atlanta and Tifton on Saturday. He plans to round out his tour with visits to Forsyth, Macon, Fort Valley, Dalton, Columbus, Hartwell and Savannah before ending in Atlanta on Oct. 30.
Deal is set to launch a bus tour on Sunday.
After his speech Thursday, Huckabee told reporters that Barnes’ ad accusing Deal of trying to weaken state laws protecting rape victims when both men were in the state Senate is “out of bounds.”
The ad said Deal’s legislation in the early 1990s would have allowed defense attorneys to question a rape victim’s background and choice of clothing. Deal said his bill was simply conforming the state law with similar federal statutes and victims would have lost no protections.