In a themeless election, let’s hear more from Handel, Johnson

WARNER ROBINS, Ga.–The good people of Houston County didn’t get to see two of the four leading GOP candidates for governor in a debate here Thursday night. But they did get to see the two best.

One of them, Karen Handel, is the surest bet right now to win a spot Tuesday in a runoff for the Republican nomination. The other, Eric Johnson, is the least likely survivor of a group that includes Nathan Deal and John Oxendine.

But after splitting time last week with Deal, Handel and Johnson, I came away thinking that the latter two are the ones I’d like hear more from. (The Oxendine campaign didn’t answer queries about its schedule, which, as far as I can tell, has been pretty skimpy lately.)

There’s a lot of similarity in what these three say about issues. That may be because, in a tight race, no one wants to make any sudden moves. It might also be because voters still don’t seem to have tuned in yet. What follows, then, are my impressions of them.

Deal is a likable man — a good thing, since we spent two and a half hours together Wednesday riding from Atlanta to Cordele, where he did some campaigning. He comes across as thoughtful about policy, if not one to immerse himself in it.

I find nothing wrong, per se, with Deal’s stance or sincerity on most issues. He has put forth some of the more concrete proposals of the GOP campaign so far, particularly when it comes to taxes.

But he doesn’t strike me as someone who is passionate or energetic about them. Contrary to his, at times, hard-edged campaign, Deal’s approach to the race seems to lack a certain vigor.

I am not trying to find a coded or roundabout way of saying he’s older than the other GOP candidates. It isn’t that he’s not obviously a political climber, which may be an asset to voters who are skeptical of the overly ambitious. It’s not that he’s simply on the quiet side.

I just wonder whether he would merely be happy to find himself elected governor, as opposed to feeling strongly that Georgia needs to move in the direction he would set. Given our array of challenges, and the difficulty the next governor will face in meeting them, I wonder whether Nathan Deal is the right man at the wrong time.

Questions of purpose and desire don’t arise with Karen Handel or Eric Johnson.

Neither one seems to really enjoy politicking — kissing babies, delivering and redelivering and re-redelivering the same slogan (I’m not sure I can stand to hear or read Handel saying “Bring it on!” one more time). Both of them are kind of wonkish — that’s a nice way of saying nerdy — about the issues.

But both clearly want to be the governor in the sense that they want to do the business of governing.

Johnson is the most economical with words, a straight shooter who, at the Warner Robins debate, was often content to leave time on the clock. He, too, does quiet, but it’s an intense quiet.

Handel doesn’t do quiet. She will, I found, talk shop from Fayetteville to Columbus to Warner Robins.

She is big on process. That’s something I ordinarily consider overrated. But in Georgia’s case, with perhaps more spending to be cut, a willingness to examine processes in detail may be key to finding where the cuts can come from.

This is still an election without a theme. I probably won’t make up my mind until Tuesday. But in the runoff to follow, I wouldn’t mind seeing Handel and Johnson debate again.

115 comments Add your comment


July 16th, 2010
7:27 pm

As far as I am concerned, anyone who served in the legislature in the past couple of years doesn’t deserve to be Governor. I dont see a long string of legislative successes for Eric Johnson either. The republicans have had total control for the last 6 years and what do we have to show for it???


July 16th, 2010
7:51 pm

2 ultra conservative christian candidates whose main goal will be to stop people from getting healthcare. They think letting people die from lack of healthcare is godly principle and theyre proud to say it with a straight face. i guess they think JESUS would let u die if u didnt have insurance….HOW CAN A REAL CHRISTIAN BE SO HEARTLESS?


July 16th, 2010
8:18 pm

The important thing is that Oxendine not be the nominee. If it’s hard to differentiate the candidates on their policy positions, you can at least avoid nominating an ethical disaster.


July 16th, 2010
8:21 pm

Bring it on! That’s was for you Kyle! Having been at the debate myself I thought Karen brought the best sollutions. She was clear and concise. I fear Eric doesn’t have what it takes to bring our state into the 21st century. I think Karen has that edge and tenacity.


July 16th, 2010
8:24 pm

Amen Claude! Miles, do you understand the healthcare bill? I wont waste my time with an answer to that.


July 16th, 2010
8:46 pm

Oxendine WILL BE the nominee AND the next governor. Handel is the choice of Governor Perdufus, who has essentially killed education in the state. The recent poll, commissioned by the State’s major newspapers, shows Barnes handily defeating everyone BUT Oxendine. That is an incredibly dangerous thing for education in the state. Barnes is a fiscal disaster and we don’t need him anywhere near the Governor’s mansion. He should not even be invited there for dinner.


July 16th, 2010
9:17 pm

Karen Handel is a self-serving,uneducated , ego centric idiot. Has anyone with a brain seen these Johnson ads? He’s nothing but a Nazi. A reincarnation of Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, the REICH minister of Propaganda, but this time he has a zealous story about how he’s a patriot and Obamacare is evil. Any person who has a 6th grade education will know this guys BAD NEWS!


July 16th, 2010
9:19 pm

@justpeachy…i understand that these 2 ultra conservative christians would rather people die if they don’t have insurance. and theyre proud of this fact, which says something about what kind of christianity they practice.


July 16th, 2010
9:22 pm

the repubs have run this country into the ground..

Grand Forks

July 16th, 2010
10:03 pm

“the repubs have run this country into the ground..”

the democrats have run this country into the ground..


Rafe Hollister

July 16th, 2010
10:04 pm

Miles: You want me to pay for your healthcare, huh? How many other peoples healthcare am I suppossed to pay for. You buy tires for my kids car and pay my light bill and I will contribute to your healthcare, how about that.

Grand Forks

July 16th, 2010
10:06 pm

miles is a bed wetter.

Grand Forks

July 16th, 2010
10:06 pm


Does your mom change your diaper, too?


July 16th, 2010
10:27 pm

I’m not voting in the Republican primary but for those that will….how can you vote for Oxendine? Handel, Barnes, Johnson. Baker, Deal…anybody but the Ox!


July 16th, 2010
10:32 pm

As one who has worked closely with the Deal Campaign, it makes me nausous to read such “inaccuracies” in the media about Nathan Deal’s lack of compassiion or sincerity on the issues. You obviously don’t know the definition of those terms. There is not a candidate in this race is more determined to do the right thing and address the issues facing this state. Hands down he understands these issues better than anyone in the race. If you and rest of the media would have bothered to show up in Cumming Georgia Tuesday night, July 13th and hear the debate between Nathan and Karen Handel, you would have seen an experienced STATESMAN debating an insecure, inexperienced politician. Nathan ran circles around Ms. Handel, and would have done the same with the rest of the field had they shown up. Georgia Voters are smart enough to see through this fasad of the other candidates…Nathan is REAL and it shows!

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 16th, 2010
10:43 pm

As a person formally represented by Nathan Deal, no way would I vote for him. When he was still a Congressman, I called his office repeatedly wanting to meet with somebody in the office (not him personally) about a constituent services type problem. I’ve yet to receive so much as a courtesy return phone call. I guess he already had his sights on being Governor and was phoning in his Congressional job.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

July 16th, 2010
11:11 pm

Good evening all, enjoyed reading Kyle’s analysis. I came to the same rankings though a less intellectually-rigorous procedure. Think that is meaningless in my case, I believe I will be unable to vote, at least in the first round.


July 17th, 2010
12:49 am

This Republican Primary is turning in to a mud slinging circular firing squad. I just got this anonymous pamphlet in the mail that accuses Handel of every conservative hot button issue there is. However it doesn’t have the creditability to publicly print who it is from on the pamphlet.. Thats pretty low life. Its what scares me about the new conservative tea party right. They just don’t know how to disagree. They have to try to destroy the opposition. I am sorry I ever voted Republican and got on to their mailing lists.


July 17th, 2010
12:52 am

Silly Kyle, it’s the same tired kindergarten-level theme as always from the Generally Obsolete Party:

Foreigners, bad!! Gays, bad!!! Taxes, bad!!!! God, gooood; guns, gooooood!!!

Lather, rinse and repeat.


July 17th, 2010
1:02 am

I totally agree with Highten…These commercials are just almost too much. I personally am sick of them.


July 17th, 2010
1:04 am

Is this the best you folks in Jawja can do? Muster up a bunch of brain dead zombies to run for gubner. Surely, these clowns can’t be your best people, they’re the ones who got Jawja in it’s cesspool mess and you’re wasting e-space talikng about these idiots and giving opinions. ROFLMAO.

Legend of Len Barker

July 17th, 2010
1:32 am

Johnson claims on his campaign website that he, “[s]trengthened discipline in the classroom and gave teachers’ protection from frivolous lawsuits.”

I’ll give him credit for making me laugh harder than I’ve laughed in a long time. Discipline effectiveness and strength is at its all-time low in classrooms. Not to mention that I have no idea what he’s talking about. I cannot remember anything being implemented or even being hinted at being implemented that has anything to do with discipline. In fact, our continued reliance on CRCT undermines discipline as the test performance is solely based on how much the kids bother to try for five days. Because they have to cram in so much stuff at once and your discipline problems generally are hand-in-hand with low-performing students, teachers have to have these children present in a classroom to try to bring little Johnny or Susie up to speed. Not to mention that some school districts use attendance as their wildcard component in CRCT scores.

He also wants to return control of schools to local boards of education. My local board chairman brings his spit cup to the meetings. They fired the superintendent in November 2008 and still haven’t been bothered to form a search committee to find a permanent one.

Clayton County’s was (and still is) one of the driving forces behind their loss of accreditation. Dougherty County’s had a major issue over the selection of their most recent superintendent. Despite an independent organization ranking one candidate in the bottom five of 30-35 candidates, they hired him.

This year’s field is so bad, I’m writing in E.D. Rivers.


July 17th, 2010
1:35 am

Think I prefere to vote next time around.


July 17th, 2010
5:43 am

The GOP is tired if this is the best they can do. Look at their record, only a moron could support them unless failure is what you seek. Their record proves it and tho augue would prove you are a moron.


July 17th, 2010
6:26 am

When will one of the candidates identify where the next round of budget cuts will come from? They have had over a year to study the issues.

I will propose one – eliminate the Georgia State Patrol.

Yankee in Gooberville

July 17th, 2010
7:44 am

Handel’s recent bouts of homophobia? Johnson’s on that too along with just plain lies about healthcare insurance reform (yeah, who would want that!!) and that taxes on all but the richest of the rich went DOWN under the Democrats. The GOP screws stuff up badly, leaves it to the Democrats to fix, and then like petulant brats run against the Democrats by b*tching about it getting cleaned up. Insanity.


July 17th, 2010
7:58 am

Johnson is running against WAshington in his ads and not focusing on what is happening in GA. I am sick of seeing him use DC politicians as the demons against which he will wage war. He talks of stopping what is happening in Washington – he is running for governor of GA, not governor of our nation’s capitol. Until we can elect a govenor who is totally focused on the good of our state and not his/her own financial gain or fighting outside perceived evils we will never see improvement.

Buzz G

July 17th, 2010
8:08 am

Eric Johnson is the one candidate who will do something about all the illegal aliens. The other candidates talk the talk when they have to, but few will walk the walk. Illegals cram our hospital emergency rooms, stress our schools, crowds our jails and courtrooms and take jobs that Georgians need. And no one has had the guts to step in at the State level to fill the void left when the Federals abandoned their responsibility. Eric Johnson will. Go, Eric, Go.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

July 17th, 2010
8:32 am

Dear Buzz @ 8:08, actually Mr. Johnson was my first choice until I heard his ad on “illegals.” That was what pushed me into Ms. Handel’s group.


July 17th, 2010
8:32 am

I finally decided on Handle. Let’s face it Oxendine is probably going to be indicted before the November elections and Deal has undeniably used his position as a “public servant” to enrich is his own pocket via a no bid contract with the state for his business. Johnson is ok but I’m not sure he can win in November; I think Handle can, remember it’s the year of the “momma grizzlies.” The most amazing posts here are those that a critical of the Republican field of candidates as in “is that the best you can do?” I guess they’ve forgotten who is going to run from the democrat party; a failed one term Governor who managed to alienate a majority of the voters – Roy Barns (aka Bobby Kahn). If you’re a conservative this is about stopping the Georgia Association of Educators from running this state for the next four years. As you “progressives” would say “do it for the children.”

Churchill's MOM

July 17th, 2010
8:52 am

1. Deal–1 of the 15 most Corrupt Washington Congressmen, bringing Washington corruption to Georgia.

2. The Ox–just as corrupt as Deal.

3. Johnson–Owned by Jamie Reynolds, if Reynolds wants a Governor he should run under his own name,

4. Chapman–The only honest man in the race, if he had a chance I’d vote for him.

6. Handel–Far from perfect but far less bad than the corrupt 3.


July 17th, 2010
9:31 am

Thank God the rest of Georgia does not think like Atlanta. Some of you people do not even spell correctly. The rest of Georgia does not want to pay for Atlanta and their problems. We want a governor who will represent the whole state-not just Atlanta. And if you are not here legally, get out.
I do not want to pay for your welfare.


July 17th, 2010
9:39 am

It is appalling that after having spent most of Thursday with Handel and then attending a debate between Handel and Johnson, your analysis amounts to “Johnson is quiet and Handel talks a lot.” Perhaps some political science courses would have been worthwhile during your time in Athens, Kyle.


July 17th, 2010
9:47 am

Given the choices presented by the “front running” GOP candidates.
I think I’ll consider voting for the evil Roy Barnes in November.

Virginia Rose

July 17th, 2010
9:52 am

Uh, under Eric Johnson’s leadership we have school vouchers and tort reform and protection of private property rights, and immigration reform


July 17th, 2010
9:59 am

Hey Kyle, “where’s the beef?”

Is this part one of a two part column?

Or have you signed the Republican loyalty oath?


July 17th, 2010
10:00 am

I like this kind of observational blog, it helps me as a voter, because as a regular reader, I trust you to shoot straight. Thanks, Kyle.

Lutie Bascomb

July 17th, 2010
10:01 am

Wasn’t Rafe Hollister a character on The Waltons?

Buuroughston Broch

July 17th, 2010
11:09 am

Mr. John Oxendine is a continuing train wreck with the sound effects delayed. If he becomes the Republican nominee, he will be deluged with Democratic dirt, most of it unfortunately true. If you don’t want King Roy Barnes back in the Governor’s chair, please vote for any Republican other than Mr. John Oxendine.


July 17th, 2010
11:30 am

Eric Johnson is a criminal who will work hard to put your children in prison.

Recall that he was very zealous in his efforts to help ensure that a 17 year old male (Genarlow Wilson) serve a 10 year prison sentence for receiving oral sex from a 15 year old classmate. He thought that was great. He was so intent on convincing himself that he was right that he just had to view the illegal child porn video of the incident. In reaction to Johnson and others doing that, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias had to publicly remind them that child porn is illegal and charges could be brought if the activity continued.

Johnson also authored yet another of Georgia’s unbelievably poorly constructed SEX OFFENDER laws and got it passed. He created yet another new crime for Georgia. He made it illegal for anyone listed on a SEX OFFENDER Registry to photograph, videotape, etc. anyone (except their own children, etc.) under the age of 18 anywhere. Just another ex post facto, stupid, worse-than-worthless SEX OFFENDER law that is counterproductive and offensive to any decent American.

Clearly Johnson believes in very big government (he’s a Republican after all) and he thinks the government should control your children’s sexual behavior instead of you. If you child does something marginally “wrong”, it won’t be up to you to discipline him/her. The government will do it for you.

Georgia’s SEX OFFENDER laws never won any of those idiotic politicians any votes like they thought they would. But they have certainly cost them. In this primary I won’t be voting for anyone I would like to win, I will be voting however is necessary to most likely harm Johnson.

Grand Forks

July 17th, 2010
11:30 am

“Is this the best you folks in Jawja can do?”

Well, we could be like Illinois, Obama’s “home state” where governors go to prison. Or, like NY state where their last governor quit because of prostitution.


July 17th, 2010
11:42 am

Why leave Georgia?

We have Glenn Richardson. He just resigned in disgrace. He had an affair with a short skirted lobbyist. Then the Republican controlled government gave us new ethics laws that were so watered down you could float on them.


July 17th, 2010
11:50 am

Grand Forks,

You make me laugh. Keep it up.. Jawja!!!!!!!!. Another carpet bagger.


July 17th, 2010
12:17 pm

Gee, I would have expected a lot more insight from a conservative/Republican writer based in Georgia. Oddly, early in the article you mention that Ga is facing severe problems, but then you fail to mention how you think the candidates will tackle these problems other than a vague discussion about figuring out where to cut the budget. In summary: Deal lacks passion (stated oh so delicately) and the others are quiet. You seem worried about actually being critical of any of the candidates in any meaningful way. Are you too much of an insider to add anything of importance publically? Perhaps another interpretation is that they are all lacking vision, experience, and/or know-how.

The Austrian Brotherhood

July 17th, 2010
12:24 pm


Because they’re a-holes. Where you been?

Gerald West

July 17th, 2010
12:36 pm

What a dreary, misguided lot of nobodies are competing to misgovern Georgia for another 4 years! Our nation is falling behind and falling apart, and Georgia and Arizona lead the march backward.

What are the hot-button issues? The top one is cutting spending on education and infrastructure when we should be spending and taxing more to work our way out of the financial hole. But, it’s better to pay unemployment benefits and welfare for people to do nothing than to have them building roads, bridges, railways, and schools. Right? Who needs good schools and better training opportunities when businesses are flocking to Georgia to take advantage of cheap, dumb labor? We’d be content to take the place China held in the world economy 10 years ago. Right?

The other hot issue is persecuting immigrants, the hardest-working, lowest paid segment of the population. We don’t really need crops planted and harvested, chickens butchered and dressed, roofs repaired and parking lots paved in hot weather, do we? Millions of Georgia citizens would love to work those jobs for sub-minimum wages and no health care or retirement benefits. Right? Retail businesses don’t need immigrants as customers, do they? I‘ve never seen immigrants buying stuff at Wal-Mart, have you?

Kyle, your enthusiasm for dumb and dumber politics is depressing! Give us something interesting for a change. I’d like to hear more about your experiences in Europe, about what you think of the education your children receive, about whether your elderly parents are benefiting from Social Security and Medicare. Real people are interesting; politicians are just posturing charlatans, unworthy of mention in polite society.

old teach

July 17th, 2010
1:02 pm

While Kyle gave us not-commonly-noticed insights into two of the hopefuls, maybe he will do a followup which includes more specific examples of all the field’s stances. I, for one, need more information before I make up my mind.


July 17th, 2010
1:10 pm

Kyle, being from Clayton County, I’m forced to vote democrat in the primary ’cause the trash keeps getting recycled down here. I’m looking to take some of it OUT–hopefully, to bury it deep.

I’m just glad the general isn’t until November. I’ve got more research to do. Debates are welcome.


July 17th, 2010
1:17 pm

Good grief!!!

ieee’s sole reason for not supporting Johnson is because Johnson is opposed to sex offenders?

Kinda makes me wonder about you, ieee.


July 17th, 2010
2:38 pm

We all know that the only real issue on the GOP side is the 100% imaginary threat of gay adoption.