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.