Republican gubernatorial hopeful John Oxendine on Wednesday took back the offensive in his early-season match-up against Karen Handel, accusing the Handel campaign of touting everything but what matters.
In a news release announcing positive new poll numbers, Oxendine, the incumbent state insurance commissioner, said Handel, the incumbent secretary of state, has made a point of aligning herself with campaign staff who helped elect Sonny Perdue governor.
And it’s true: Handel has hired acid-tongued spokesman Dan McLagan, who worked for Perdue; as finance director she has Leigh Ann Gillis who worked on both of Perdue’s gubernatorial campaigns, as well as uber-ad man Fred Davis, he of the famous “Rat” video during Perdue’s first race. Davis, in fact, also worked on Oxendine’s 1998, 2002 and 2006 insurance commissioner campaigns — an additional fact that has to hurt just that much more.
Oxendine’s response to all this? He’s calling it as he sees it. Oxendine accused Handel and the “Perdue team” of trying to “clear the field and have insiders control the process.”
The implication being that Perdue himself is trying to clear the path for Handel, to whom he is close. But at a news conference Wednesday for a bill signing, Perdue said he has not endorsed a candidate — yet — and has not been making calls on Handel’s behalf, a rumor that has made the rounds of Peach State politics in recent days.
Oxendine spokeswoman Kat Ballou, however, said later Wednesday that they believe “there is collaboration” going on between Perdue and Handel’s campaign.
“If you want a status quo politician, then Karen Handel is your candidate,” Oxendine says in his release.
“It is also interesting to note, Karen sends out press releases talking about her staff and her supporters,” the release goes on. “In fact, the releases talk about everyone and anyone but Karen and her conservative philosophy. Karen Handel may have the high priced Perdue staffers, but Team Oxendine has John Oxendine, the grassroots candidate.”
Today is April 22, 2009. The 2010 Republican primary for governor is July 20, 2010. This is going to be a long, long campaign.
Update 4:19 p.m.: Handel campaign manager Marty Ryall responds thusly:
“In the past two weeks Mr. Oxendine has attacked every Republican constitutional officer in the state, first the lieutenant governor, then secretary of state and now the governor. That is not the kind of campaign we are going to run. We are going to focus on Karen’s strong record of accomplishment, her vision for the state, and why she is the best choice to be our next governor. We welcome any additional candidates to the race who offer themselves to serve the people of Georgia.”