A quartet of Republican candidates for governor met with leading members of the Metro Atlanta Chamber on Tuesday.
The affair was private — no press allowed. Which means we didn’t know about it until the campaigns spilled the beans.
Karen Handel, John Oxendine, Eric Johnson and Nathan Deal were given 20-minute, individual grillings on state and local issues. Bill Nigut, the former Atlanta TV reporter, conducted the interrogations.
“Nobody left and there was standing room only,” said chamber President Sam Williams. Since we weren’t invited, it is Williams’ account of the interviews that will have to satisfy.
On the water wars: No one had a clear answer and deferred to Gov. Sonny Perdue’s task force on the issue, which is expected to deliver its recommendations by the end of the year.
“They were all sort of critical of the fact that nothing had been done up to now – that there was no fallback plan if the litigation had failed. That was a universal criticism,” Williams said.
On transportation: “Oxendine was probably the most outspoken, talking about his second Downtown Connector, as he called it. That got a few chuckles in the room,” Williams said.
But on a penny sales tax for traffic congestion and such, the candidates were split on whether such a tax should be levied statewide or by various regions – most particularly metro Atlanta.
Curiously, the two metro candidates – Handel and Oxendine – said they preferred statewide collection and distribution. The two non-metro candidates – Deal and Johnson – preferred the regional method.
“Nathan Deal said he was for something that would pass the voters, and that his view was, the only thing that voters would approve of right now would be in metro Atlanta,” Williams said.
On economic development: The candidates were heavily quizzed on why they thought Georgia has lost its luster as a site for corporate relocations to states like North Carolina.
Each candidate promised to emphasize development of bio-research. But each GOP candidate opposes embryonic stem cell research, and Nigut asked them how they reconcile that opposition with support for research.
Atlanta mayoral runoff candidates Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed meet with Metro Chamber leaders today. Next Tuesday, Democratic candidates will be questioned during a breakfast meeting — all behind closed doors.
On Tuesday, Johnny Isakson continued to lay the groundwork for the Republican response to the coming health care reform debate in the Senate.
“I don’t think in the end health care legislation is going to pass in any of the forms that are being debated now,” he told my AJC colleague Bob Keefe. “Whether it will pass in any form is the key question.”
Isakson said if Democratic leaders in the Senate incorporate some Republican proposals and find ways to cut costs out of the bill, it stands a chance.
Isakson said much the same thing to Denis O’Hayer with WABE (90.1FM). O’Hayer also focused on the 60 votes needed to control debate in the Senate, and a bit of history:
O’Hayer:Back when you were elected, of the issues of the time was how many votes it would take to cut off debate. The issue then was federal judges, and you were among those who said it should be easier to cut off debate. It should take fewer votes to do that. Do you feel differently about that now?
Isakson:First of all, let’s go back to exactly what was said. In fact, it was Georgia’s senator Zell Miller who proposed a sliding scale on votes on cloture …and that proposal made some sense – and ultimately was why the Gang of 14 came together, and we got an agreement to go ahead and have votes on presidential appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Having a super-majority for cloture is very helpful to the minority, and it’s helpful to the process. Dilatory use of that becomes very frustrating, and that’s what was taking place on the judges. But the reason why I don’t think Harry Reid will go to the nuclear option of reconciliation is the same reason it didn’t happen on Supreme Court justices. It would change the [atmosphere] so dramatically, that it would cause the Senate to break apart and not be functional.
Atlanta mayoral runoff candidate Kasim Reed tweeted the following this morning:
Good morning! I have a big announcement coming shortly. Follow me on Twitter to be the 1st to hear! Happy Veterans Day!
One suspects the Lisa Borders endorsement is on its way.
While you ponder that, consider these items found while perusing this morning’s ajc.com:
Senators propose massive banking overhaul. Case could decide whether Georgia can afford the death penalty. Borders ‘75%’ sure who she will endorse. Perdue visits troops in Iraq. State has negative revenue from corporate income tax. Tom Wassell, 84, WSB-TV anchor, dies. Delta subsidiary pays $100,000 settlement for hiring discrimination. Cobb approves water and sewer rate hike. Chancellor asks band director to take ‘From Dixie With Love’ off Ole Miss play list.
Cynthia Tucker on Obama’s duty to Muslim soldiers. Show veterans respect — they earned it. Atlanta’s colleges key to revitalization of its core.
And from beyond:
WP: Bill Clinton gives a health-care pep talk on Capitol Hill. NYT: Blackwater said to pursue bribes to Iraq officials after the deaths of 17. WSJ: Stalled in D.C., unions push issues in state capitals.
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