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Candidates make final bid for votes as primary arrives

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Three candidates for governor, one for attorney general and another for U.S. Congress dropped into the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport one-by-one Monday.

While they all had different views on the issues facing the state, they all spoke with a single voice on one thing -- "Go to the polls, and while you are there, vote for me."

Ken Hodges, locked in a nasty primary battle with state Rep. Rob Teilhet for the Democratic nomination for Georgia Attorney General, said today's primary is really just a matter of choice between two clear options.

"If people go to the polls educated on the choices available to them, we'll win in a landslide," Hodges, the former Dougherty County District Attorney said. "I am the only candidate who has argued in a courtroom for Georgia's citizens.

"If based upon experience, then there really is no choice."

Hodges then closed with this parting shot at Teilhet, saying, "Rob's biggest problem is that he's spent more time at lunch with lobbyists than he has in a courtroom."

GUBERNATORIAL FLY-INS

Former Congressman Nathan Deal swooped into town in the early morning, touting his rising poll numbers in the GOP race against favorite John Oxendine and Karen Handel.

"Mr. Oxendine's numbers are dropping and ours are rising," Deal told his gathered supporters. "Look at the numbers ... I'm the conservative candidate with the best chance of being elected in November."

According to a poll released by the Associated Press Friday, Oxendine is the apparent leader with 31 percent of the vote to 23 percent for former secretary of state Handel and 18 percent for Deal.

"Our schedule has been hectic, and it has been very, very hot, Deal said. "We'll be glad to get this first leg of the race out of the way. This has been a grassroots effort from the beginning, but it is an effort that can win in November."

If elected, Deal said he would place emphasis on education and health care.

"We cannot afford the unfunded mandates of the Obama administration," Deal said. "We need health care reform, but not like this.

I think we should have lower-cost clinics near high-traffic emergency rooms.

"ER visits cost five times more than clinic visits."

Deal also touched on immigration reform saying he stood behind Arizona's new immigration initiative, set to go into effect later this month.

"I approve of what Arizona is doing," Deal said. "The last federal immigration reform was in 1996. I think we should empower all law enforcement personnel to enforce federal immigration law.

"Now I understand there is a legitimate need for guest worker programs, especially in our agricultural sector. But the problem is whenever immigration reform bill comes up, someone always tries to attach an amnesty rider to it.

"That won't work."

Former governor Roy Barnes, who according to the AP poll leads with 54 percent of the vote of likely Democratic voters, said he was looking forward to November's general election.

"We are in a mess," Barnes told the crowd. "We need someone who is experienced. We need someone who doesn't need OJT to help us climb out of this hole we are in."

Barnes, who lost the 2002 governor's race to Sonny Purdue, says he never planned to run for public office again.

"I will be honest with you, When I left office in 2003, I never intended to stand here again running for public office," Barnes said. "But when I saw the fringes of the mainstream, those who think it's better to build a fishpond rather than educate or children, I had to run."

Barnes then urged is supporters to get out the vote today.

"Make sure everybody you know votes," Barnes said. "Let's concentrate on creating some jobs. Let's put Georgia back on the path to common sense."

Former State Rep. Eric Johnson, who trails Oxendine, Handel and Deal in the GOP polls, says his campaign has built momentum leading up to the primary.

"I can feel momentum as more and more voters sort through all the silliness and clutter to find the proven conservative in the race," Johnson said. "We have always said we were going to peak on election day and this is exactly what we are doing."

Johnson says he has a detailed plan to put the state back to work, crack down on illegal immigration and to boost education.

He also pointed out that his campaign has not released a single negative ad, mail piece or automated call.

"Attacks on our fellow Republicans aren't going to create one job," Johnson said. "They aren't going to stop one furlough day, they are not going to lower taxes for one Georgia family.

"I am staying focused on the issues that matter and the voters are taking notice."

U.S. CONGRESS

State Rep. Mike Keown, who is in a primary fight with Lee Ferrell and Rick Allen for the GOP District 2 nomination, said he is pleased with the way his campaign has gone.

"We feel good about the primary," Keown said. "We have worked very, very hard for almost a year. It's in the voters hands now, and while we feel good we're not taking anything for granted."

Keown, former mayor of Coolidge, said his message to the people of District 2 has been simple from the start.

"The people of southwest Georgia have been missing someone who represents them," Keown said. "We hope to win Tuesday without a runoff. There is no doubt that we have the broadest base of support among GOP candidates."

The polls will open at 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. today.