The two Republican runoff candidates for governor had their first joint appearance Friday in Marietta, before a gathering of the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club.
Overflow tables were required. A few Democrats from the Roy Barnes campaign, headquartered nearby, stood in the back to listen.
The Insider was given the honor of posing questions to former congressman Nathan Deal and former secretary of state Karen Handel. Answers to two of them provoked some differences worth considering.
On the subject of taxes, former secretary of state Karen Handel appeared to be shading – ever so slightly – her position on elimination of the state income tax. Three weeks ago, she and John Oxendine had been the only advocates of such a move.
She also appeared to walk onto ground plowed by Democrats in their primary, urging an examination of sales tax exemptions.
“We do need comprehensive tax reform in the state of Georgia. As part of that, and I think the tax commission is going to look at this, we do need to pull down, if not eliminate, our state income tax, come up on sales tax.
“…..We need to examine those sales tax exemptions, which haven’t been looked at in decades.
“Our tax credit system – make sure that the tax credits that we’re giving, we’re getting the right bang for the buck. If they were designed to create jobs, are they really creating jobs?”
Deal concentrated on why he didn’t favor absolute reliance on a sales tax:
“I am a supporter of the Fair Tax at the federal level, but John Linder, who supports my campaign, as well as Phil Gingrey, John admits that you can’t simply translate that to the state level.
“I do believe we can go to a more consumption-based approach, but I think you have to be careful that you don’t do something dramatically, and therefore jeopardize the jobs of school teachers and other public employees who depend on a steady revenue source.
“Sales tax currently is a third of our income. Individual income tax is about half the income for our state. So when you start taking away half of your revenue stream, you better be awfully sure that you’re not going to jeopardize state programs.”
Given the tone of the final days of the primary that ended Tuesday, it was also fitting to ask each candidate to explain what the phrase “pro-life” meant.
Deal was first:
“My definition of pro-life is someone who believes in the sanctity of life. Someone who believes that life begins at conception. Someone who is willing to protect innocent life.
“I have a record of doing that. I believe that that is what most Georgians believe in. I believe that it is one of those fundamental principles that distinguishes us from other societies. It is something that we should not abandon lightly. It is something that we should be very careful that we do not unduly tamper with in a legislative process.
“I am pleased to have had the opportunity to vote on many issues relating to pro-life issues. And I have a 100 percent voting record in that regard….”
“I think it’s no secret that I have a little different perspective than Mr. Deal. I am an absolute, pro-life Christian. I do believe that life begins at conception.
“I also believe, however, that as a policy-maker, as we strive to save every single unborn baby that we possibly can, we also have to look at every situation that’s out there.
“For a government to look into the face of a mother of a 13-year-old who has the bad fortune of having been raped, and then becomes pregnant, and tells that mother what is going to happen in her family – I think that is between that family, their faith, and God.
“I also think that Georgia Right to Life is wrong on the issue of invitro fertilization. They are wrong on the issue of fertility treatments. And I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you this: They have also been grossly misstating my beliefs on this issue, and I am not going to be ashamed to stand up and tell you that I am a pro-life Christian…..”