Tire-kicking and the GOP race for governor

A political party’s field of candidates is much like the inkblot of a Rorschach test.

The blob that looks like an intimidating army to one soul might resemble a weak-kneed B-team when seen through the eyes of another. Appearances depend on the size of your own ambition and, quite possibly, the state of your wallet.

Casey Cagle left the Republican race for governor a tumultuous 12 days ago. Even as you read this on Monday morning, a surgeon’s scalpel could be hovering over the lieutenant governor’s spine, attempting to repair the degenerating discs that forced his withdrawal.

The GOP field now stands at four. Whether Cagle has left a hole in the ranks is the question that has dominated Republican discourse from here to Washington.

So far, three GOP stalwarts have stared at the inkblot — and have seen nothing in it for them.

Sam Olens, the Cobb County Commission chairman, House Speaker pro tem Mark Burkhalter, and U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland disappeared one after another last week, like a string of unlucky characters in an Agatha Christie whodunit. Each declared his disinterest in the race.

The economy was a large part of their calculations. Embarking on a new, $10 million enterprise — and that’s what a statewide campaign is — is risky even in good times.

Burkhalter in particular cited the need to keep an eye on his real estate business.

The fact that so many of their Republican compadres see something missing in the 2010 governor’s race no doubt gives heartburn to Secretary of State Karen Handel and state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine — two vetted, statewide office-holders already in the contest.

But the dissatisfaction has, at times, been obvious. Earlier this month, Republicans in the 10th Congressional District in northeast Georgia — one of the most conservative regions of the state — held a straw poll.

Oxendine and Handel each took 30 percent of the vote. “Undecided” beat them both, said chairman Dave Barbee of Augusta. State Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton received no votes. (A fourth candidate is states’ rightist Ray McBerry.)

“That tells me that no one has an upper hand,” Barbee said.

What’s the source of the dissatisfaction? Some Republicans worry that Oxendine’s fiery, anti-establishment approach has limited appeal — given the GOP’s control of the state Capitol, Barbee said. Others worry over Handel’s connections to Gov. Sonny Perdue.

But geography may be the key. Both Handel and Oxendine are products of north metro Atlanta. While Republican victories are built on an alliance between suburbia and farm country, much of rural Georgia remains suspicious of anything that originates north of I-20.

Which makes it significant that one Republican still considering the race for governor is state Sen. Eric Johnson of Savannah.

Johnson, the former leader of the Senate, is currently a candidate for lieutenant governor. But Cagle, after his surgery, now intends to run for re-election.

A Johnson decision to replace Cagle in the race for governor offers a neatness that Republicans often find attractive.

The only problem: Johnson’s staff is — like that of Handel — peopled with former Perdue loyalists. Johnson’s campaign chairman is John Watson, the governor’s former chief of staff. Johnson and Handel share the same fund-raiser, who also has roots with the Perdue organization.

Over the weekend, word spread that Johnson was scouting out new hires. He’s to make a decision early this week.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

7 comments Add your comment

Will Jones - Atlanta

April 27th, 2009
7:12 am

May G-d grant the good and decent People of the Greatest State in America a governor of probity, proven integrity, and not one stained by any affiliation, to any degree, with the sectarian treasonous Fifth Column faction, doing the revealed Anti-Christ’s work as made manifest in the recent economy destroying, draft-dodging closet-queen cheated into the White House to commit 9/11 by only the votes of the Roman Catholics on the Supreme Court, known as the Gay Old Perverts.

Chris Broe

April 27th, 2009
8:36 am

If Johnson’s and Handel’s peter-principled staff picks are peppered with a peck of Purdue’s people, then their primaries are in a pickle. (I know, say it don’t spray it.)

David A. Staples

April 27th, 2009
10:14 am

Oxendine says he’ll veto any Sunday alcohol sales bill that crosses his desk if elected governor. Why is he so afraid to let the people vote on this issue? I’m voting Libertarian, for John Monds. At least Libertarians realize that things like blue laws should be created at the very lowest level possible if they must exist at all… not statewide.

Will Jones - Atlanta

April 27th, 2009
11:04 am

The People of Georgia must be made aware that, at the national level the Libertarian Party is, at heart, guided by right-wing otherwise Republicans who want to be “out of the closet” and legally smoke marijuana.

The Democratic Party is open and honest. While elements exist within it which can be identified as offensive and corrupt: Roman Catholic Blacks who pushed for Hillary in the primary instead of Obama; and Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi who failed to have 9/11-committing Bush impeached and arrested even though thousands on Capitol Hill witnessed the “white jumbo jet’s lumbering turn directly overhead” as the shockwave arrived from the Pentagon, with President Obama now anointed and Elect to lead Our Nation, Georgia can rise to the occasion and return to “Yellow Dog” status.

White and Black, Jew and Gentile: Americans receiving The Dream, once more.

Let us all follow Our Prophets, Thomas Jefferson and Martin King, and make Atlanta and Georgia America’s “Wheelhorse.”

Annuit Coeptis

[...] in today’s print column, I mention that Karen Handel and John Oxendine, two statewide office-holders that already have gone [...]

Jim Callihan

April 27th, 2009
2:42 pm

Will, c’mon man…terms like “right wing” and “liberal” are so passe’. What was once a very idealogical opposition has become so overran with every “special interest” group not welcomed as a “centrist” view. To continue using either of those terms while holding to the 50’s, 60’s definitions is a gross misrepresentation.

My point? When you are calling out a “special interest group”, you now have to identify it in terms of the “one-issue” belief they espouse to challenge their position (ie- “PETA, Homeschoolers, Farm subsidy/BIG AG, Pro-Defense spending, Gay Marriage”, etc…). And to state that the LP is “guiding the right -wing GOP” is very amusing… Seriously – can you even picture Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hitting some gahnja? LOL!!!

Will Jones - Atlanta

April 27th, 2009
4:22 pm

Jim, I saw it from the inside and know of what I speak.

The problems we face as Americans and Georgians today will not best be addressed by “incrementalism.” Our problems have at their core a supreme violation of The Creed which made us great as a People. Treason now prospers in America, led by assassins, perverts and thieves. The LP is run by men and women who would be in the GOP if they were willing to stay “in the closet” like George Bush and Wm F. Buckley, Jr.

Obama knows this, but as a humble genius of grace, has the good sense to be diplomatic and sober…brought to America by the Democrats…and while that party is not universally righteous, it’s a start, in Washington and in Atlanta.

As to what’s “passé?” Refraining from the historic interpretation and political analysis that fed the minds and success of America’s Founders…

Whig consciousness built Our Country…and can rebuild it today by recognizing Whig Interpretation is even more true today than when it was used to convince the American People to revolt against the Old Sectarian Order in 1776: History unfolds as a conflict between Rome…and everyone else. “They” think they “own” the world and all on it…and are able to find Mammon-worshipping corrupt politicians who want to bleed their neighbors, to go along with them.

The “Right wing” today is the same as when Carlyle coined the term to describe the “cote droit” of the French Assembly: made up of royalists and representative of the papist church: the equivalent of their “Military Industrial Complex,” which in Our Country has followed Vatican banker and Big Oil Monopolist (by murder and arson) Rockefeller and their Bush lieutenants to fund Hitler, commit the Holocaust, run McCarthyism as a distraction to send us to defend the pope’s interests in Roman Catholic Korea and Vietnam, kill Kennedy and King, illegal immigration of their co-religionist Hispanic peons to oppress the Middle Class, foment division, destroy the Internet Revolution to buy up stocks on the bottom, and has now committed 9/11 and bankrupted us, to steal real estate and put people in debt bondage the same way they did in 1929.

Democrats have smart people who know the Big Picture…and can bring change and progress. Libertarians, not so much.