Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Marietta Daily Journal endorses Roy Barnes for Governor

Here's what they say:

If there was ever a time that Georgia voters should take to heart the axiom that "all politics is local," this is it. As they mark their early voting ballots or prepare to go to the polls Nov. 2, voters should focus on the fact that they are choosing a new governor of Georgia - and not voting on the woeful job performance of President Obama and the Democrats in control of Congress.

Rather than trying to send a message to Obama, the task of Georgia voters is to consider which of the two major candidates is best equipped to lead Georgia during a time of crisis.

Running on the Republican ticket is former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal of Gainesville, winner of his party's nomination by less than 2,500 votes over former Secretary of State Karen Handel in a spirited GOP primary runoff. Elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1992, Deal switched parties three years later, and during 18 years in Congress he was a strong supporter of reforms in immigration, welfare and fiscal policies, backing cuts in spending and taxes. Unfortunately for the Republican nominee, he has been dogged by a congressional ethics office report raising questions about his financial disclosures and lucrative state contract for his auto salvage and inspection business in Gainesville. Recent revelations of financial difficulties involving a failed family business have dominated news about his campaign instead of the issues vital to Georgia's progress in the future. As a result, a growing number of voters are conflicted over their choice of candidate.

Laying partisanship aside, by any objective yardstick, Deal's experience and leadership qualities come up short in comparison with those of the Democratic nominee, former Gov. Roy Barnes of Marietta.

Barnes and his wife, Marie, are both natives of Cobb County, where he grew up working in his father's Mableton hardware store and graduated from South Cobb High School.

Barnes has spent decades serving the people of Georgia as a state senator, a state representative and then, from 1998-2002, as governor. Barnes took a proactive approach to dealing with education, transportation and other issues. Unfortunately, the direct way in which he took on such matters - as well as his success in removing the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag - generated strong opposition that contributed to his defeat for a second term in 2002. His successor, Sonny Perdue, learned from Barnes' mistakes. Rather than take an activist approach to solving problems, Perdue has let most of them fester for as long as possible. The result is that Perdue's successor will inherit a state where public schools in many places are still substandard, traffic congestion is worse than ever and the state is far from ready for the next drought.

And while the recession is hardly the fault of Sonny Perdue, the next governor will take the reins of a state government facing its greatest fiscal crisis since the days of the Great Depression. Even revenues from the state lottery are down markedly, threatening the viability of the HOPE Scholarship program.

Such times call for a leader of vision and leadership skills - and Roy Barnes is that leader. His successes as a businessman (he's a banker), a lawyer (he's one of the best in the state) and legislator have prepared him well for the challenges just ahead. There would be no steep learning curve as governor for Barnes, unlike what Deal would face. Georgia does not need a governor in days like these who is undergoing on-the-job training. Gov. Barnes would enter the governor's office ready to go from Day 1.

Moreover, his entire focus would be on Georgia and its needs. It is to Deal's credit that he was willing to underwrite his daughter's decision to become part owner of a sporting-goods store. And it is not his fault that it has now gone belly-up like so many other businesses. In addition, Deal is to be applauded for saying he plans to pay off what he owes rather than declare personal bankruptcy. But the fact is that if elected, he would enter office in January against the backdrop of a darkly looming Feb. 1 deadline to pay off the $2.3 million loan in the case. Whether Deal is elected or not, that deadline would be constantly preying on his mind, and we wish him only the best as he considers how best to meet it. Deal also is still fending off serious allegations that he used his influence as a congressman to enrich himself via no-bid deals with the state for his auto salvage and inspection business.

Critics of Barnes are trying desperately to tie him to Obama, whom Barnes barely knows. Our former governor has always been a political moderate, not a liberal, and has staked out a centrist position in this campaign. On key issues, he is in tune with the majority of Georgians, opposing admission of illegal aliens to public colleges and universities - and sharply critical of Obamacare and its financial impact on this state.

Roy Barnes is well known to the people of Cobb where he has been one of the county's most esteemed public figures for four decades. That status won't change, come what may at the polls in November - and regardless of the strained efforts to transform him into Obama's supposed evil twin. Those allegations are laughable to those who know Barnes. They have about as much credibility as saying Obama is a protege of George W. Bush.

Georgians need to base their vote not on which way the country is going, but on which candidate is best prepared to take the helm of this state during troubled times.

And clearly that candidate is Roy Barnes.

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