What’s next: Deal, Handel, Barnes and the murky results of the GOP runoff for governor

At 1 a.m. Wednesday, the secretary of state’s website showed 99 percent of precincts reporting and Nathan Deal leading Karen Handel in the GOP runoff for governor by a mere 2,489 votes.

Handel isn’t conceding, and Deal isn’t declaring victory. But don’t look for an impasse to last more than a few hours into Wednesday – the state GOP can’t afford to give Democrat Roy Barnes any more of a head start.

This morning, for instance, became yet another opportunity for Barnes to appear by himself on local morning TV shows, while his Republican opponents stayed cautious and out of sight.

Let’s first look at what will happen regardless of whether Deal is declared the winner, or Handel.

What comes next:

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal, left, is supported by his wife Sandra. AP/John Amis

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal, left, is supported by his wife Sandra. AP/John Amis

There’s the mess in Washington, and the mess in the state Capitol.

Decide which one worries you most, and you’re halfway to solving the riddle of the November race for governor of Georgia.

Whether the Republican nominee is Deal or Handel, the message will be the same. Look for one or the other – today – to place the albatross of President Barack Obama’s low approval ratings around Barnes’ neck.

The favor has already been returned.

Hours before Tuesday’s last voter had slammed home the last electronic ballot card, Barnes was on television with an ad that directed the gaze of viewers to Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Republican-controlled state Legislature.

“Do we continue down the same path with the same team that gave us ethics violations, teacher furloughs, tax breaks to special interests, homes foreclosed, and misplaced priorities,” the 30-second spot asked. “Or do we work our way back?”

Believe it or not, the recession has kept your TV relatively free of nasty negative ads. That’s about to change.

Millions of dollars are about to be spent to help you identify the nightmare that keeps you up at night, whether it be classroom size or health insurance mandates.

Georgia has one of 37 races for governor this November, and is one of a dozen or so rated as toss-ups.

On June 30, Barnes reported having $1.1 million on hand to finish out the July 20 primary. You can assume that both Deal and Handel are broke, or nearly so, after an extra three weeks of campaigning in the GOP runoff. But do not grieve for either.

With 2012 redistricting at stake, national Republicans and Democrats – both with tens of millions of dollars at hand — have identified Georgia as their playground. “A top-tier pickup opportunity,” says the Democratic Governors Association.

But keeping Georgia in “R” column may be more important to the Republican Governors Association, whose executive director, Nick Ayers, is a former aide to Perdue. And keep in mind that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the RGA, is making noises about a presidential run in 2012.

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel kisses her husband Steve during an election-night party Tuesday. AP/John Bazemore

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel kisses her husband Steve during an election-night party Tuesday. AP/John Bazemore

“Continuing the legacy of Sonny Perdue — it’s going to be important that we have a conservative Republican leading our state,” said Eric Tanenblatt, Perdue’s former chief of staff. “I do know that Georgia is a priority.”

Look for the RGA to enter the Georgia fray as early as this week, to keep Barnes pinned down while Deal and Handel sort things out.

Dysfunction in Washington and Atlanta will be the overriding themes.

“This is about Georgia and issues,” said Barnes campaign manager Chris Carpenter.

“[The federal] government is now led, both chambers and the White House, by the Democratic party. And Roy Barnes is part of the Democratic party. It’s going to be hard not to for that not to be an issue,” said Tanenblatt, a Handel supporter.

Then there’s the feat that Barnes will attempt in November. Gov. Eugene Talmadge was booted out of office by voters in 1942. Talmadge was re-elected in 1946 – but died before he could take office.

That was the last time Georgia voters forgave a governor – and gave him his job back.

Memories of Barnes’ style remain. “It’s very difficult to say, ‘I wasn’t a good listener eight years ago, but I’m a good listener now.’ It’s a tough sell,” said Chip Lake, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland and a major Deal supporter.

Let’s consider the alternatives. First, the shape of the contest should Deal retain his slim lead:

– Given the current climate, don’t look for either President Barack Obama or even former President Bill Clinton to make appearances for Barnes, whose pursuit of independent voters this fall won’t let him utter the words “Republican” or “Democrat.”

– Deal comes from a family of public school teachers and educators. But look for Barnes to force Deal to say whether he agrees with John Barge, the GOP nominee for state school superintendent – who says the following:

“I believe that, constitutionally, the federal government has no role in education. It is best administered by state and local elected officials and by education professionals closest to our schools and our classrooms.

In my view, the amount of money we could receive from Race to the Top does not justify yet more federal government intrusion and bureaucratic micromanagement of our local schools.”

– Because both Handel and Deal were cash-challenged, most of their TV ads were focused on metro Atlanta. “The majority of the vote is in metro Atlanta, but middle and south Georgia are going to be critical,” said Carpenter, the Barnes campaign manager. Look for the Democrat to test Deal’s appeal south of I-20.

– Look for the Barnes, like Karen Handel, to focus on that congressional ethics investigation of Deal that ended when the north Georgia congressman resigned his seat this spring – but with a twist.

Several Democratic strategists have pointed out that Barnes is likely to begin targeting both Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a Republican up for re-election, who helped arrange Deal’s meetings with state officials that attracted the attention of congressional investigators. You’re likely to see a combined attack on both figures at the near top of the Georgia GOP ticket.

And if Karen Handel should survive to fight another day:

– Look for Sarah Palin to be replaced by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer – who has more general election appeal than the former Alaskan governor.

– Again, the Barnes campaign would test the appeal of the first female Republican nominee for governor south of I-20.

– Southern accents are likely to get thick. Nathan Deal hinted at Handel’s non-native status. Democrats would find a way – who knows how – to emphasize the fact that Handel grew up in Maryland. Then there’s Handel’s lack of college education – Deal was delicate in his approach to the topic. But Barnes or his fellow Democrats would find a way to tap it.

— As secretary of state, Handel had a slim voting record when it comes to major state policy issues, and she’s on record against the “sex, lies and lobbyists” at the state Capitol. To compensate, Barnes would wed Handel to Gov. Sonny Perdue, whom Handel once served as deputy chief of staff, and his policies that – according to Democrats — led to teacher furloughs and a muddled state transportation policy.

– On the other hand, Handel’s suburban roots in metro Atlanta would neutralize a natural advantage by Barnes’ ties to Cobb County. Two metro Atlanta candidates battling it out would be an interesting dynamic, as one Republican leader pointed out.

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141 comments Add your comment


August 11th, 2010
2:57 am

I would prefer that Karen pull off the win. They are still military votes to count and absentee ballots. If she does not win I will have no choice than to vote for Deal with my nose squeezed as I will be damned if I will vote for Barnes or any democrat for that matter.

No Deal

August 11th, 2010
3:13 am

What I will never do is bring myself to vote for Mr. Deal. As a Republican, if Deal wins, I will have the unhappy choice of either not voting for Governor in the fall or voting for Barnes. There is a clear moral issue here. One does not place someone in office just because they support your point of view. You place them if office because they have the character to be there.

You can not have larger goals and values if your willing to sacrifice the principles that under pin them and support the shady and corrupt for office.

mama grizzly

August 11th, 2010
3:14 am

sorry KAREN, I GUESS THE GEORGIA voters seen through my bs…anyway, thanks for the big check

Best for Georgia

August 11th, 2010
3:20 am

“Mary” says she “will be damned if I will vote for Barnes or any democrat.” Well, I think that attitude got us 8 years of Sonny Perdue and “damned” just about sums up the state of the State. Thanks, Mary. With people as blindly partisan and short-sighted as you, we can say goodbye to the days when GA brought the Olympics to Atlanta and was the first state and leader of our SE region.

sarah palin

August 11th, 2010
3:23 am

I lost? i mean KAREN lost, oh no how could this happen?..FOX NEWS says everybody loves me…FOX wouldnt tell lies, would they?


August 11th, 2010
3:39 am

ROY BARNES ALL THE WAY….Atleast when he was in office alot of us had JOBS. When the Republicans came in, their went the damn jobs and cuts are still going on everywhere. Never in my 16 years here in Ga. have I been UNEMPLOYED THIS FREAKIN LONG !!!!!! IT’S TIME TO PUT THOSE OF US WHO WANT TO WORK BACK TO WORK.


August 11th, 2010
5:07 am

If you ignore partisan labels, does Deal or Barnes look better as an administrator ? I agree that Barnes has the edge though I may not love him.

South Georgian

August 11th, 2010
5:58 am

The candidates had better start campaigning south of I-20 soon. I’m speaking of small town places like Blakely, Sylvester, Hazlehurst, Waycross, Vidalia, & Americus – along with the Albany, Valdosta, Savannah stops. Most voters in our part of the state haven’t heard much from any of the candidates.


August 11th, 2010
6:18 am

Voters like Mary make it possible for Republicans to deliver all their attention to the rich and powerful, at the expense or her, her children, and her grandchildren. Mary, how about just one time voting for your own economic interests, just so that the Republicans won’t always assume they can take you for granted?

Tech man

August 11th, 2010
6:22 am

Yep, ole Roy can’t wait to again steal the GA 400 $.

Tech man

August 11th, 2010
6:23 am

Roy, those fingers still sore from getting slapped when they were in the cookie jar?

Jon Lester

August 11th, 2010
6:24 am

If this were really about “continuing the legacy of Sonny Perdue,” wouldn’t we have heard that explicitly mentioned more often by the candidates? Is that really something anyone wants to run on?


August 11th, 2010
6:45 am

Roy? Clean? Ethical? Get off the drugs! He is challlenged, to say the least. How about his $80 million dollar lawsuit against a mom and pop carwash over a fax…, his thugs at the Capitol…. shall we continue? He is not fit(no pun intended) to be dog catcher!


August 11th, 2010
6:48 am

“Naomi” Are you really that stupid????????? Come on everyone knows small businesses are sitting on tons of cash and they are not spending it growing or reinvesting in their businesses. Why??????? This Obama administration is sitting their waiting to tax them into oblivion.

What you idiot liberals don’t realize is this simple fact: You did not lay out any capital for the initial start up of the company you work for, you didn’t take any risk. It was not your family that sweated thru all the scary start up up years and endless worrying if the business was going to succeed. Nope all you did was accepted a job by the person taking the risk and now all you want to do is have the government tax the he(( out of them so you can get a bigger check or more health care.

Ever think of starting your own business? Maybe then you would realize the person who had the guts to step out deserves to make his profit in fact he deserves to be rewarded as much as the business he risked everything on can afford to pay hm.

If you don’t like your check……..start your own business or find a new employer who will pay you what you think you are worth ….but in the meantime quit using the power of government to steal from those who put in the long days, sleepless nights, suffered the ulcers and paid the price to get to where they are.

Karl Marx

August 11th, 2010
6:49 am

If it is Deal I’m voting for Barnes. This just goes to show the Republicans still don’t get it. Well OK dim wits pay for it then.

Craig Cardella

August 11th, 2010
6:50 am

Barnes blaming Purdue is like Obama blaming Bush. Teachers should remember Barnes broke more campanign promises than anyone until Obama. Neither Mr. Deal nor Mr. Barnes are to be trusted south of I-20. Unlike Atlanta voters, character still matters outside the TV belt aound Hot-lanta.


August 11th, 2010
6:52 am

Naomi you can thank Obama and the idiots like Pelosi, Reid and “I like big long Franks” Barney for your jobs lost he just cost 3 thousand more in Virginia. Do you ever study to see how our system of government works????????

Look it up dummy Democrats were in control of the House and Senate when Bush was in office, they controlled the purse strings. They are the ones who put in the rules concerning loaning money to people who knowingly could not pay them back.

Get your facts straight and then come talk trash. Don’t show how ignorant you really are by making a fool of yourself.

kathryne lee

August 11th, 2010
6:54 am

Here is thought for you all. All of you republicans (especially in the legislature) who said if Karen won you would vote for Barnes. Be advised that I will encourage all Handel voters to vote for Barnes should she end up losing this to a loser like Deal. Cannot believe how stupid voters are. You keep voting in men who are corrupt and you wonder why your government is corrupt.

SoGA Vet

August 11th, 2010
6:57 am

Complete control of Government by one party is a recipe for…, well just take a look at Georgia over the last 8 years. No chance the House or Senate will switch, so voters have only one chance to bring balance back to Georgia. Hold your nose and vote for Barnes.


August 11th, 2010
6:58 am

All you folks looking to Barnes should look at one thing. His support of teachers unions. These same teachers have been teaching your children from when he was first in office, then thru the Perdue years and now into this election. Guess what your kids are coming out of school still at the bottom of the barrel. So how is this either Barnes or Perdue’s fault?

Isn’t it time to put he blame where it really goes? These teachers don’t even work a full year like you have to work, they have more benefits than you will ever see, they get paid more than they deserve according to your kids test scores.

Isn’t it time to bring the teachers into the real world? People are losing their jobs and now your going to vote to send a guy to be governor who panders to these lazy, whining babies?


August 11th, 2010
7:03 am

kathryne lee ……….you voted for a guy who sued to keep an opponent off the ballot to win his seat, is the face of Chicago’s corrupt politics, he is an avowed Socialist, traitor to this country by ruining free enterprise, supports crooks like Maxine (Isses gonna get mines) and (Charlie (tax cheat) Rangel who makes up the rules as he goes so they don’t effect him, Gaithers another tax cheat and you have the gall to cal Republicans crooked?

Get real.


August 11th, 2010
7:05 am

SoGA Vet use a name of you are going to talk trash, first of all you are not a veteran because real vets don’t support Socialism they fight against it. So start off by stopping your lying.

kathryne lee

August 11th, 2010
7:13 am

Hey Randy, you just don’t get it. they are all crooks and they all cheat and lie. They are only interested in what they can get out of it and they get a lot or they would not spend all their time getting re-elected. So you need to get real and realize your vote has to try to cripple each party so that maybe they will start doing what we think we are electing them to do; represent us and our best interests, not theirs. If Handel loses, my vote goes to the crook Barnes.

Shock and Awe

August 11th, 2010
7:18 am

Shame on all of us including myself for putting Karen Handel in elected positions that led her to be a serious candidate for governor. A nice person, but so overwhelmed by facts, and with little education or experience to handle them. Republicans have produced damn poor candidates. The “good old boy” system (really, a both gender crony system that exists in county republican politics) she complained about actually was what wired her to be sec of state. I am so sick of weak candidates. We can do better. I think Deal can beat Roy because they are two of a kind, but I am so sick of these lightweights that the Reps put up. Eric Johnson had dreadful advertising. I still think he would have been best, but dammit, you have to know how to run a campaign and need to know when to use voiceovers versus monologues, and convey a lot in a little time…


August 11th, 2010
7:19 am

Hey, I’m a Vet, and the Military is a totally socialist lifestyle. You don’t even own your body.

I can respect someone who has an honest difference of political opinion. I can’t respect Deal, who is just plain corrupt.


August 11th, 2010
7:26 am

There is so much partisan malarkey in these lisings. Some is quite amusing; some is so ignorant it is downright scary. I know our choices for governor leave some of us cold. But what would happen if every voter chose the person best able to do the job and left the partisan rantings to some other state ?


August 11th, 2010
7:27 am

Randy how many times does it have to be said that Georgia teachers don’t have a union and they are only paid for 180 days a year.

Bitter EX democrackkk

August 11th, 2010
7:35 am

WHY would ANY Georgian with a BRAIN want to vote for Roay Barnes?

STRIVE to be SMARTER than the EVIL democrackkk party WANTS you to BE!

Ain't my daddy's republican party

August 11th, 2010
7:40 am

Sorry Mary – The only republican candidate for Governor might vote for would be Handel. Democrats, Libertarians, and Republicans are all in play.

I cannot vote for Deal – who benefited without competition from a State Contract. When Governor Purdue challenged Deal – he complained,used his influence, this is the same influence that 50% of republican primary voters will never benefit from and likely never be in a position of temptation to even faulter. This smacks of a doctor aborting the state’s finances -$ pre-destined to line the pocket book of a career politician ahead of financing Georgia’s needs. Simply not aiding and abetting such behavior. Best of Luck to Handel as the final votes are counted, best of luck to Roy, and the Libertarian candidate.

You may not like the Barne’s policies,

rob pierce

August 11th, 2010
7:41 am

Absentee and early votes should be counted before the polls close and be the first numbers released at poll closing.

Used to be Disgusted

August 11th, 2010
7:44 am

Jeopardy for Dummies

Answer: Family Feud in the Leper Colony

Question: What is a republican run-off?

SoGA Vet

August 11th, 2010
7:45 am

Hey Randy – In the military it stands for Forward Observer


August 11th, 2010
7:47 am

When you have nobody to vote for except crooks and idiots then why vote at all. They all say they want to serve the people when all they really want to serve is their egos, bank accounts and have their power trip. If they are clean and not corrupt when they get elected it will not be long before they are just like the rest of them, kind of like someone getting hooked on drugs and then they cant get enough of it.


August 11th, 2010
7:49 am

memo to no deal: many stayed away to not vote for mccain and we now have a socialist majority on the supreme court, a democratic congress bankrupting the country so hold your nose and vote against king bubba, who hasnt got the nuts to be seen with Obama when he endorsed him.

Food For Thought

August 11th, 2010
7:51 am

Yeah…Peggy…. with comments like yours:
“You’re an idiot, Mary. Karen will win, but she’s a fat bitch who will lose in November to Barnes.”

Your idiot quotient is off the charts. Why do you feel it neccessary to degrade other women? Maybe next time you should ask your husband if it’s ok for you to speak.

SoGA Vet

August 11th, 2010
7:51 am

Flash – correction, thanks to a Republican dominated Capitol, teachers only get paid for 167 days this school year…Georgia – 48th in the nation in education; Republican answer – shorten the school year.

Noo Corrupt Deal. Nooooo King Roy

August 11th, 2010
7:54 am

I’ll be voting John Monds for Governor. How many people rose from the grave to vote for the Raw Deal? Just like Maynard jackson, Deal stole this election.



August 11th, 2010
8:01 am

what i dont get is how almost 300,000 GA’s could vote for someone that could not even manage a Walmart. If Handel put in an application somewhere what could she be hired as?

Has GA fell that low this is the best carpetbagger we could get? I did not like either person running for office, but I hope Deal holds own to the election but I will be voting Barnes come Nov.

I just wish Cagle would have been in the Gov race.

Quality over Party

August 11th, 2010
8:02 am

I want echo some of the more thoughtful comments and express concern about some of the worrisome and partisan remarks on this blog. People need to look underneath the label of “R” or “D.” I think Roy is the best candidate because he bears scrutiny on this own merits, but I respect anybody’s right to a different opinion. My main hope is that Georgians will take the time to really consider how badly Georgia needs good leadership right now and avoid the trap of equating party designation with quality (or lack thereof).


August 11th, 2010
8:12 am

Randy, Randy, Randy… You need to get a good dictionary and find out why your maw and paw named you “randy”. According to dictionary.com a randy person is 1. sexually aroused; lustful; lecherous. 2. rude and agressive. 3. a rude or coarse beggar…

I think you mammie got it right.

Ain't my daddy's republican party

August 11th, 2010
8:16 am

Quality – let finish what I did not.

Some may not like Governor Barne’s policies, however they are not corrupt. We may agree or disagree with those decisions at the ballot box as those decisions impact us all. Influencing from an elected position for self benefit $300k per year that is wrong and because of that Deal is not the best candidate.

Handel, like our current president has ascended in power very quickly without a depth of experience, if you like wild hay rides then she may be your candidate. She is ethical and a viable candidate something to me Deal is not.

Governor Barnes is the best candidate for the next four years.

Forget the Democrat label – this is Georgia – we are conservative whether Democrat Republican or Libertarian.

Georgia female

August 11th, 2010
8:30 am

Nathan Deal’s /Huckaby rally on Sunday did not say ONE word against the opponent. Handel’s rally with Palin was nothing but slamming the opponent.
Go Nathan Deal. We need him against Roy Barnes.


August 11th, 2010
8:34 am

If Deal wins, I suppose I will have to hold my nose and vote for him. But somebody please tell him to shut-up about social issues. I don’t need a “big daddy” telling me how to live my life. I want someone who can balance a budget and keep government from using my wallet as a solution to all our problems.


August 11th, 2010
8:36 am

oh Randdddddy… I forgot to tell you this: you’re a foul-mouth pervert to booth. Quit beating up on the women on this board… hehehe

[...] Read more [...]


August 11th, 2010
8:39 am

Dysfunction in Washington. Boy, what a statement. Politics in our nation sux.

Oh Well

August 11th, 2010
8:40 am

@rod “we now have a socialist majority on the supreme court…”

um, you may want to do a little research on that one, Rod. We actually still have a right/conservative leaning Supreme Court: Scalia, Alito, Roberts, Thomas, and Kennedy. There are 9 ppl on the Supreme Court and the conservatives have the majority…

So are you are implying that they are Socialists?

Guy Fleegman

August 11th, 2010
8:43 am

Can’t bring yourself to vote for Deal or Barnes? Vote John Monds. Vote Libertarian.

Tea Party 2010 - KICK THEM ALL OUT

August 11th, 2010
8:43 am

Deal is a fake conservative and big government relic.

I hope Barnes wins to send the gop a message: stop giving us fake conservatives to vote for.

Deal is as conservative as barney frank…he’ll suck up to obama and grow government just like all his establishment RINO buddies.

Roy Barnes

August 11th, 2010
8:46 am

Republicans want to starve puppies, take away social security from the elderly, and put African Americans back in slavery !