Jekyll Island – The Republican debate among the Republican candidates for governor, sponsored by the Georgia Press Association, has begun.
No great news has been made yet, but an interesting head game may be occurring.
Just before the five candidates sat down – Jeff Chapman, Nathan Deal, Eric Johnson, Ray McBerry, and John Oxendine – former Gov. Roy Barnes entered the room and began shaking hands with top-ranking editors and publishers throughout the state.
The Democratic debate doesn’t start until 2:30 p.m. Barnes has arrived 90 minutes early – a large chunk of time in campaign terms.
Barnes is now sitting in the sixth row, listening to the candidates.
(Update: “It was a little dry, to be quite frank with you,” Barnes said afterwards.)
– Chapman, a Brunswick state senator, says Georgia has more illegal immigrants than Arizona. All agreed that we need to see legislation like that state has introduced;
– Johnson has said the state needs an immediate injection of $1 billion for road-building, to “buy time” until 2012, when a transportation sales tax could pick up the slack;
– Oxendine paraphrased a line from Gov. Gene Talmadge of the ’30s and ’40s. You may not agree with me, Oxendine said, “but I’ll never surprise you.”
– Both Oxendine and Deal were asked about Sunday sales of alcohol by grocery and convenience stores. Oxendine said he personally opposes it, but that communities have the right to decide for themselves. Deal said he also favored local control – but he didn’t see why alcohol purchases couldn’t be made on other days of the week.
– Missing from the debate was Karen Handel, who has refused to appear on the same stage with McBerry – because of a relationship McBerry had with a 16-year-old girl while he was a public high school teacher.
McBerry went with flow when it came time to introduce himself: “I’m Ray McBerry and I’m going to be standing in for Karen Handel,” he said.
– When asked about what cuts to the state budget he’d endorse next year, Oxendine wasn’t specific, and Walter Jones called him on it. “It’s my privilege to answer the question the way I want to,” he said.