Governor’s race is short on boldness, long on caution

The surest sign that the governor’s race is a toss-up — and that a Democrat stands a real chance of winning in this red state — may be the lack of pre-primary drama. No one, whether Republican or Democrat, seems to feel good or bad enough about the race to make any sudden moves.

The result, so far, is one boring election.

It’s not just that the political ads so far lack rifle-toting straight talk or a roundtable of frowning Founding Fathers, like some of the ones aired over in Alabama this year. It’s not just that there’s no emerging star, like conservatives Marco Rubio of Florida or Nikki Haley of South Carolina.

It’s about substance. Georgians could be forgiven for thinking all the candidates sound the same — to the degree that we’ve even heard from the contestants. There are more than a dozen gubernatorial candidates running as Republicans or Democrats, most of whom have raised enough money to buy some TV time. You can still count the ads they’ve aired without using your toes.

If you haven’t seen one yet, they all go something like this: Jobs, no more school-budget cuts, jobs, no new taxes, jobs, maybe even some tax cuts, jobs, an end to traffic and water worries, and jobs. And jobs.

Roy Barnes: “Make Georgia work.”

John Oxendine: “Creating jobs is job number one.”

Eric Johnson: “Putting Georgia back to work.”

David Poythress: “I won’t accept a paycheck as governor until we get unemployment below 7 percent.”

At least DuBose Porter has the candor, on his campaign Web site, to emphasize only issues that a governor actually can influence: water, transportation, education. A governor can probably do more to hinder employment than to help.

But let’s stick with the conceit that the fate of our work force lies in the next governor’s hands. What do the candidates propose to do?

Oxendine would “scrap the income tax” and replace it with … well, he’ll get back to you on that, although his support for the Fair Tax on the federal level suggests he’d back an expanded state sales tax.

Barnes would (I’m not making this up) hire people to install water-efficient toilets in state buildings.

Nathan Deal pledges to cut the corporate income tax by one-third and end a sales tax on energy used in manufacturing. Those are good ideas (Johnson promises the latter, too).

Deal would also cut individual income taxes by up to $230 a year. Sounds good? It’s less than the property-tax relief that Barnes gave homeowners, and which the GOP-led Legislature ended last year.

Forgive me for wondering when the beef will be served.

Maybe it will arrive after the primaries and any runoffs, when the R’s and D’s can get down to doing what they do best: Attacking each other.

(Here’s a suggestion if you end up dissatisfied with the two major parties’ nominees: Don’t stay home, and don’t cast a protest vote for the party you normally oppose. Instead, you could do far worse than choosing the Libertarian nominee, John Monds. If he gets 20 percent of the November vote, his party will be able to put candidates on the ballot for all offices, not just statewide ones, giving the GOP and Democrats some needed competition.)

For now, the leading Republicans and Democrats seem content to try to sneak into a runoff without stirring up much trouble — or being bold with their policy plans — beforehand.

Poythress has come closest to trying to bring down his party’s front-runner with his “Bag Barnes” website and video. But it hasn’t caught fire yet. Republicans apparently are waiting for a runoff to take on Oxendine, but at this rate only one of them will get to try that tactic.

Cautious candidates don’t only make for boring campaigns. They make for insufficient debate and discovery, and maybe some unpleasant surprises down the road.

89 comments Add your comment

Ragnar Danneskjöld

June 30th, 2010
7:10 pm

In all honesty I am waiting for the runoff too. My dream runoff would be Handel vs Johnson, my nightmare would be Deal vs Oxendine.

william rownd

June 30th, 2010
7:22 pm

don’t vote for Barnes…he already had his chance and was voted out after cheating Teachers out of their money and stepping on all the little people by changing our flag etc.

Roy Barnes doesn’t care about us…Roy Barnes does exactly what Roy Barnes wants…NOT what the people want

Hillbilly Deluxe

June 30th, 2010
7:43 pm

My fear is the nominees will be John Oxendine and Roy Barnes, leaving me with nobody to vote for.


June 30th, 2010
8:16 pm

Doesn’t matter if the race is boring or not. A Republican will win and democrats will cry.


June 30th, 2010
8:17 pm

I tired of wasting my votes on Republicans and Democrats alike. What we need is real change and Monds is the only one that will attempt it.

Darling Diedre

June 30th, 2010
8:31 pm

I am a Republican and I am voting for Barnes. None of the candidates say wow to me (and the mere thought of Ox getting it makes my rectum pucker) but there is so much nonsense and craziness going on in the General Assembly that somebody needs to crack the whip. That person is Barnes. Granted, he can be arrogant, but I’m not marrying the guy, I’m expecting him to be Governor. He was a great one before and he’ll be a great one next year. He has my vote: he’s an honest man. You betcha.

"Information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment" - BHO, May 1, 2010

June 30th, 2010
9:13 pm

We have no good candidate for Governor in Georgia.

Draft Clark Howard and convince him to take the gig. Yes it a pay cut but our state needs a leader EXACTLY like him.


June 30th, 2010
11:17 pm

Ox is an idiot. We will cement our stake to laughing stock status if he’s elected. Have to agree with Kyle here, to a degree.


June 30th, 2010
11:39 pm

“He has my vote: he’s an honest man. ”



June 30th, 2010
11:53 pm

“King Roy” is just like “King Obama” and his clan…the type that have a lot of disdain for the common person and think they are our masters instead of our servants.


July 1st, 2010
12:14 am

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Legend of Len Barker

July 1st, 2010
2:18 am

All candidates – except Barnes – seem to be making a huge error in another way. WALB in Albany is THE television station for all of southwest Georgia. From almost as far north as Columbus to even as far east as Waycross, WALB controls the market. I’m not sure if it’s still the case, but at one time they boasted of having the highest ratings for any local news broadcast in the country.

That said for its dominance, I’ve been told that Barnes is the only one running ads on the network. Despite the area being hugely Republican, Barnes is the only one buying time.

The county unit system is dead and buried, but that’s a pretty big chunk of the state that is being ignored.

When Oxendine is posing in front of the “Welcome to Georgia” sign, I wish he was doing it in on US 1 coming into Folkston. That sign was altered at the bottom with a can of spray paint to read Sonny “Liar” Perdue.

Road Scholar

July 1st, 2010
6:06 am

Governor’s race short on boldness….. Where’s the leadership in the GOP? Who has a vision…that can be implemented? Tax cuts? Have they seen the recent numbers? How? What next to go? Books in schools? No Repub candidate has a vision. Barnes does! That’s why he’ll win.

Also, anyone in the upper gop has no ethics. Where were they during the Richardson affair? Hipocrites!

Mid-South Philosopher

July 1st, 2010
6:36 am

Well, let me inject a little excitement into the race for all of you…whether it is “the Austell Apple Seller” or “You’re in Good Hands in My Hands” or “Bring It On” or any of the others from the “sexually repressed” to “virtually unknown”, given the state of the Bush/Obama economy and the ineptness of “Silly Sonny’s” administration…there are “large tax increases” in all of our futures!


July 1st, 2010
6:45 am

Jobs won’t be an issue after everyone moves out of state because of the pathetic education system. The only jobs will require sub-par intelligence, and we will have that in abundance. Our other big issue is transportation, and in my entire lifetime–almost 60 years–no one in this state has had the courage or the vision to create the kind of rail system that we need. Why can Japan and Europe do what we cannot? Oh, and speaking of stuck-in-the-mud, spineless, mindless governance–once we have no water, it will all be a moot point. Our “law makers”, even when confronted with a court mandated deadline to fix the water problem with Lake Lanier, hired lawyers to plea for more time to fix a problem that we have know about for decades. Still no word on any plan to fix the problem. We are idiots and we elect and re-elect the idiots over and over and over. Barnes is the biggest liar and idiot of the bunch. He is throwing out promises right and left, but has no real plan to keep them. It’s almost like he is living in a fairy tale. Oxendine is the second biggest idiot of that bunch. He has no clue about anything, but knows the Republican buzz-words and sound bites. I heard Hudgens, who is running for Insurance Commissioner, speak at a mini-debate, and he knows nothing about insurance or how it is supposed to work. Yet he has raised the most money and will most likely win because the Republican party wants someone in that spot that can help block the federal health care plan. Lord help us.


July 1st, 2010
6:59 am

Nice column Wingfield. This about as boring a governors race as I can remember.

I agree on Monds. We should all take a look at his website. Here is an appetizer from his website -

“Over the last few years, there has been much focus on tax reform, however, we cannot truly have tax reform until we have spending reform…”.

He is coming out of the gate with the right idea.

Do not let the old saw of “wasting your vote” when it comes to a third party make your decision for you. Make your own decision.

Churchill's MOM

July 1st, 2010
7:40 am

I will vote for Handel in the primary, she is the lessor of electable evils. Ox, Deal and Johnson are simply corrupt. The Republicans even have a child molester running. Jeff Chapman is a good and honest man but can’t raise any money because he won’t sellout. Like RAGNARD my greatest fear is a Ox Vs Deal runoff, in which case I’ll vote for Ox, the smallest crook.

If the Nov vote is Handel vs Barnes, I’ll vote Handel. If it is Ox, Deal, Johnson vs Barnes and close I’ll vote Barnes. If it isn’t close I’ll vote for Monds. As most here know recently I have voted LIBERTARIAN, none of the above. Wingboy please do a good write up about Monds closer to the election.

Last night I started reading about the 2 Republican Candidates for State School Super, does anyone have any knowledge of these 2?


July 1st, 2010
7:49 am

Not only could you do far worse than to vote for John Monds, you’d be hard pressed to do better with any of the rest of them.


July 1st, 2010
7:51 am

Curiously, in a supposed anti-incumbent year, most of the departing are not retiring but seeking higher office. We may recycle more than we replace. The bad news is that a frustrating 114 seats still have but one contestant. Two of them aren’t even incumbents, meaning they will affect state policy without being vetted by voters. And I have to think that we’d be better off if many had run instead for the Legislature — and cut down on the number running unopposed. Georgia’s problems are numerous. They aren’t going away. There’s too much stale thinking at the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. New voices would be welcome.


July 1st, 2010
8:01 am

Darling Diedre @ 8:31 pm June 30

– Conservatives (as a whole) are still mad at Barnes because
he changed the state flag – Period.

Fred Z

July 1st, 2010
8:03 am

Just add mud.

BS Aplenty

July 1st, 2010
8:08 am

Eric Johnson’s a winner. Especially since my daughter works on his campaign.

Now, how much are Fannie/Freddie going to cost the taxpayer – more than $1 TRILLION according to the WSJ? I believe we have a winner in the TARP-Fannie/Freddie contest. Keep the gov’t out of the mortgage market and let poorly run investment banks fail!

about time

July 1st, 2010
8:10 am

When John Oxendine said that he would not allow the people to vote on Sunday alcohol sales, he lost my vote. Besides, he is just really creepy. Has anyone seen his tv ad? I just cringe everytime I see him.


July 1st, 2010
8:19 am

It might be helpful if the Republican party ran a few candidates that weren’t running from an ethics investigation or had a college degree or were at least competent to govern.

Of course, competence has never been that important to Georgians.

Barnes wins by default.


July 1st, 2010
8:21 am

So any of these people will provide jobs? How many Wal-marts will they build so that we will all have a “career”?????


July 1st, 2010
8:35 am

Kyle: Nathan Deal pledges to cut the corporate income tax by one-third and end a sales tax on energy used in manufacturing. Those are good ideas…

Thereby leading to more cuts in education, reducing our ability to resolve congestion and and other ransportation problems, and increasing our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil? No thanks.

Specifically with regard to the corporate tax cuts, read about how that’s working out for Ireland.


July 1st, 2010
8:38 am

Whoever prioritizes getting rid of the illegal aliens in our state will get my vote.

David S

July 1st, 2010
8:40 am

Yes, you could do far worse than John Monds. You could vote for either the republican or democratic candidate. Send the real message that needs to be sent. That you are tired of the two party (really just one big government party) system that has destroyed this country and this state. The greatest thing that would come from the addition of one or more parties to the mix (especially the small government, principled Libertarians) would be that no longer could either party get away with their usual fear mongering during election season. For a change, each half of the two-faced party would not be able to say that the greatest thing about their candidate was that they “were not the other guy.” For a change, they might actually have to stand behind their platform and this might actually drive the two major parties to actually adopt principles. If not, let the two-faced party fail and let some other better parties with principles step forward and succeed.

Good luck John Monds! You’ve got my vote.


July 1st, 2010
8:46 am

churchill’s mom: that’s why the runoff system is awesome – at least sometimes. Even if the race is close – vote for Monds. If the candidate you dislike gets the 50%+1 votes – he/she would’ve gotten them with or without you – so you can vote for Monds knowing that the vote isn’t ‘taking away’ from another candidate (unlike somewhere like minnesota, where winner takes all – with 35% of the vote sometimes – that system has its merits, too, but we have what we have in GA so one can have a ‘protest’ vote and be confident here).

Sybil Wainwright

July 1st, 2010
8:55 am

Karen Handel is my choice. I do not believe the polls have done a very good job of picking up exactly how popular she is. Her grassroots campaign is huge! All of the Republican male gubernatorial candidates have some sort of ethics issue stuck to them–Karen Handel is clean– and much smarter than the bunch of good ol’ boys who want to be governor and keep things basically the same. It’s the “Year of the Woman!” Karen Handel is the ONLY good choice.

Kyle Wingfield

July 1st, 2010
9:12 am

Yes, CJ, those darn low corporate tax cuts are what doomed Ireland — not a housing bubble that was even worse than ours.

Kyle Wingfield

July 1st, 2010
9:13 am

Low corporate tax RATES, I should have said.


July 1st, 2010
9:18 am

“Conservatives (as a whole) are still mad at Barnes because
he changed the state flag – Period.”

What a foolish and ridiculous statement.


July 1st, 2010
9:19 am

Kyle wrote a few months back that having one party in control of the federal government is not a good thing.

I can’t wait to hear his excuse on why it’s not important for state government. Don’t hold your breath waiting for his Barnes endorsement.


July 1st, 2010
9:20 am


Yeah, the democrats need more people like Cynthia McKinny to help balance out the state.


July 1st, 2010
9:29 am

Let me put the quality of candidates for Governor in perspective, the best guy is most likely one that lost to Sonny Purdue….Sonny Purdue! How sad is that?

about time

July 1st, 2010
9:37 am

Cynthia Mckinny vs. John Oxendine. I’d vote for Cynthia anyday over that tool.


July 1st, 2010
9:59 am


The right has been singing Ireland’s praises for the last few years, attributing their rapid, short-term economic growth to their low corporate tax rates.

Conservatives can’t have it both ways. If such growth that resulted in a housing bubble was caused by Ireland slashing their corporate tax rates, then the right can’t claim that the inevitable bursting of the proverbial bubble was unrelated to that policy.

How Did We Get In This Mess?

July 1st, 2010
10:04 am

Darling Diedre – WOW, where have you been living or did you just wake up after a very long nap? Roy Barnes will say anything, ala OBAMA, to get elected. He’s a liar, plain and simply and has no interest in you, the voter, whatsoever. OX, like many have said before, “Is An Idiot” and also a crook. Karen Handel may not possess a higher educational degree, but at least she’s honest and, I think, very capable of running our state government. She would be quite a refreshing change from “Funny Sonny” and the so called frontrunners in this years elections. Please, don’t be gullible enough to believe all the lies that King Roy and The OX are telling you. Let’s change the way our state is run :)


July 1st, 2010
10:06 am

They need a football hero candidate like Charley Crocker of Georgia Tech fame. A guy that can shake up the political machinery, you remember Charley, the 60 minute man, offense and defense. This guy can take the political football and run with it. Everybody likes Charley, he knows the movers and shakers from the Piedmont Club. Lives up there in Buckhead, the place with the mile long drive and magnolias and honey suckel roses. And his wife Serena, she can charm the audience with that down home southern belle drawl, what a pair.

Ron Shook

July 1st, 2010
10:12 am

This reporter has made errors in the past by not doing required research. How he could leave Karen Handel, a front runner, out of the opinion piece is really questionable. You would think his editors would have caught this error, maybe the Cox family doesn’t want Mrs. Handel to get the publicity over the good ole’ boys.

Before Mr. Wingfield writes another opinion piece, or any article for that matter, he should prove to the editors that he properly researched the subject or be put on the police beat.

Churchill's MOM

July 1st, 2010
10:14 am

atlmom 8:46 am

you are correct.. THANKS

Churchill's MOM

July 1st, 2010
10:19 am

BS Aplenty 8:08 am

The Eric Johnson/Jamie Reynolds TV adds have me confused. Is he running for the US Senate against Johnny Bailout or Nancy Pelosi’s house seat in California? Why doesn’t he run on his record of carrying the water for special interest?

tar and feathers party

July 1st, 2010
10:26 am

We have bad choices this year for governor, a lying lawyer who stole a hundred million Medicaid dollars for his out of state lawyer cronies and tens of millions from the Georgia 400 Toll Road Fund for his in state developer cronies OR a border line psychopath who uses his official government car and blue lights to cheat his way through traffic at the expense of regular Georgia drivers, all in my personal and humble opinion. Just say “NO” to both these things, and vote for anyone else.

tar and feathers party

July 1st, 2010
10:29 am

As much as I dislike Karen H, I will eagerly vote for her over RoyTheCrook or JohnThePhycoPath. and I do dislike her and her ilk.


July 1st, 2010
10:34 am

In a tale of irony, Christopher Hitchens was diagnosed with cancer. Pray he gets better, even though he thinks Christianity is a sham.


July 1st, 2010
10:42 am

“The result, so far, is one boring election.”

I agree. The politics in Georgia were much more entertaining when the Democrats in Atlanta were circulating e-mails that they need to do everything possible to ensure a black person wins the election.

David S

July 1st, 2010
10:47 am

I agree. We should elect someone who is black – John Monds. But we should elect him because unlike the republican or democratic nominee, he became a Libertarian because of principles, not political opportunism.


July 1st, 2010
10:48 am

Oxendine will be an unpleasant surprise if he gets elected. Geez, what a sleaze.

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

July 1st, 2010
10:49 am

Well, I’m voting for Neal Horsley. He’s the only one that will break off from the U.S. of A. and let us be our own country and get us away from this Civil Rights Act. Don’t let that little thing with the mule drive you away. We all make mistakes once in a while. Besides, a lot of women in GA look like mules. It can get confusing.