One day after a Survey USA poll showed him in a virtual tie with Karen Handel for a runoff berth in the GOP race for governor, former congressman Nathan Deal has begun touting a small but significant geographic difference between the two.
This from a just-issued Deal press release:
Nathan Deal, a leading Republican candidate for governor, said today he’ll move quickly as governor to bring down the Georgia 400 toll before the end of 2011.
“As governor, I’ll swing the sledgehammer to bring down the Buckhead Wall,” Deal said Tuesday. “The state has collected more than enough money to pay the bonds for the highway. We are now using the tolls of Georgia 400 drivers to pay for other road projects. That’s not fair to the commuters in north Fulton and Forsyth counties. They’ve carried more than their fair share.”
Back in 2003, Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed legislation to restrict the use of toll revenue to expenses directly related to the road traveled. His predecessor, Roy Barnes, had raised eyebrows when he directed some Georgia 400 toll money to the new Atlantic Station development.
Ending the tolls on Georgia 400 had originally been a cause espoused by state Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton. But he dropped out of the Republican race for governor to run against U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Macon).
On June 12, my AJC colleague Ariel Hart wrote a piece on where candidates for governor stood on specific transportation issues. Here’s her quick assessment of the governor’s race and the future of tolls on Georgia 400:
Opposition to building Ga. 400 in Buckhead was eased by promises to use the revenue only for Ga. 400 and to take down the tolls after the road is paid off in summer 2011. But faced with the stream of quarters, and burgeoning needs, some state leaders went soft. Leave them up after payoff?
Baker: No. Take the tolls down.
Barnes: Maybe. If there are unpaid repairs or a need for other fixes.
Deal: No. Take the tolls down.
Handel: Maybe. Spend revenue on Ga. 400 “corridor” projects.
Johnson: Maybe. Spend revenue on Ga. 400 “corridor” projects.
Oxendine: No. Take the tolls down.
Porter: No. Take the tolls down.
Poythress: No. Take the tolls down.
Clearly, Deal is attempting to poach support from Handel’s base of suburban support in north Fulton and adjacent areas. The question may be whether Deal has enough cash to get this particular message — should he choose to do so — on television.