ALBANY, Ga. -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal, who already has the backing of the National Rifle Association, the American Conservative Union, Georgia Right to Life and former Speaker of the U.S. House Newt Gingrich, picked up a number of local endorsements during a campaign stop in Albany Wednesday.
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun of Athens joined state Sen. John Bulloch of Thomasville; state Reps. Ed Rynders (Leesburg), Buddy Harden (Cordele) and Jay Powell (Camilla); and representatives of the Dougherty, Lee, Baker and Crisp county governments in publicly throwing their support behind Deal in his Aug. 10 GOP runoff with frontrunner Karen Handel.
"This runoff is critical to Georgia," Deal told a large gathering of supporters at the Merry Acres Events Center. "As Republicans, if you want to maintain the governorship you have to nominate the person who can actually win against Roy Barnes in November. I'm the one who can do that."
Each of the aforementioned elected officials, as well as Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard, Lee County Commissioners Rick Muggridge, Ed Duffy and Bill Williams, Baker County Commission Chairman T.E. Moye and Crisp County Commissioner Brad Faircloth, gave brief testimonials in support of Deal's candidacy.
"In my eight years (in office), this is the first endorsement I've ever done," Rynders said. "But this election coming up is too important not to get involved. Nathan Deal has represented rural Georgia in the state legislature and in Congress, and we need someone with his conservative credentials.
"But the single biggest reason I'm working hard for Nathan Deal is that the other side is locked and loaded. Nathan is our best chance against (Democratic nominee) Roy Barnes, who seems to be playing a game of run-and-hide. He ran and hid in south Georgia when President Obama came to Atlanta, but he can't hide the fact that he's given money to President Obama twice.
"Roy Barnes can run ads promising voters the earth, the moon and the stars -- and he has," Rynders continued. "But he's yet to run an ad telling how he'll pay for it. Someone has to stand up to Roy Barnes and his friend Barack Obama."
During a question/answer session, Deal said his stand on Georgia's ongoing water wars with Alabama and Florida has been "misconstrued or deliberately misstated." He said he does not support wholesale inner-basin transfer of water.
"The only time inner-basin transfer should be allowed is in counties that are part of a unified water system," Deal said. "But, clearly, I do not support wholesale inner-basin transfers. Frankly, if we do a better job of water management, I don't believe we'll need such transfers.
"What we need is to show (U.S. District Court) Judge (Paul) Magnussen that Georgia is coming to the table on this issue with clean hands. Many of the major metro areas in Georgia have very leaky water pipes, and we need to fix them. And cities that use large amounts of water must treat the water to a clean quality standard that we can get credit for the water that's returned to our waterways."
Deal also said he favors a more technologically sound approach to addressing Georgia's educational woes.
"I'm like Rep. Rynders, I'd like to see that magic lollipop that Roy Barnes has that's going to solve all our education problems," he said. "We need to look at the educational controls that get better results, like the charter school movement. We need to look at the statutory mandates and determine which, in these hard economic times, make the most sense.
"Georgia spends $200 million a year on textbooks, and that's the last-century way of educating our students. We need to utilize the latest technology to gear education to the individual student. A friend of mine who is a school superintendent asked me once, and I'll ask you: Have you ever seen a class of kindergartners who were not excited about going to school? Sadly, though, by sixth grade half of those kids have decided that what they're being taught isn't relevent. By ninth grade, that number goes up to 75 percent."
Lee County's Muggridge said rural communities need someone who understands the Georgia that "extends beyond the shadow of the Gold Dome."
"Next year, the state is going to begin the difficult, the extremely difficult, task of redistricting," Muggridge said. "We need a friend in Atlanta."
Broun said Deal has proved himself a friend to rural Georgia in Washington.
"Nathan Deal knows business, he's respected in Democratic and Republican circles in Washington, and he's not the kind of man who will compromise his conservative principles," Broun said. "Get your friends and family members from all over the state to vote for Nathan Deal Aug. 10, and we'll have the governor Georgia needs."