Posted: 1:35 pm Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
By Greg Bluestein
David Pennington made his insurgent challenge to Gov. Nathan Deal official when he qualified on Tuesday, saying he and the incumbent are “polar opposites” in the GOP primary.
Pennington, who stepped down as Dalton’s mayor on Monday, pressed Deal to sit down for a debate. (We have been told that won’t happen.)
“It’s unusual in a primary for two opponents, in a primary, to be almost polar opposites on almost all the major issues – the economy, taxes, education, Common Core, ethics, transparency – we’re polar opposites and we need a debate for the Republican Party voters to understand the differences … If I’m elected governor and I decide to run for re-election I will debate anybody, anywhere at any time. Because we owe that to Georgia voters.
He also took a whack at Deal with the news that a third whistle-blower lawsuit was filed over the state’s embattled ethics commission. When asked whether he thinks the governor will suffer as a result, Pennington offered: “There’s little doubt where there’s a lot of smoke there’s fire.”
Pennington has been in the race for almost a year and his bid to outflank Deal hinges on support from tea party backers and other Republicans disillusioned with the incumbent. Deal, meanwhile, has sought to shore up the right wing of his party by, among other strategies, rejecting Medicaid expansion and supporting a review of the Common Core standards. Pennington sees an opening:
“The beauty of the Republican primary is it’s a very finite group of voters. There’s probably about 700,000 people who vote in this primary. We know where they are and where they live, which is mostly north Georgia.”
Attorney General Sam Olens filled out paperwork this morning to run for a second term. With the news he will face a likely Democratic challenger, former state Sen. Greg Hecht, expect his legal challenge of President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul to become a political football.
Olens said it will only win him more supporters.
“I’m following the rule of law. The role of the attorney general is to defend and enforce the law. And that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been very much following the constituency of Georgia and frankly winning the vast majority of cases as desired.”
Georgia’s constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages offers a different sort of dilemma. Democratic attorneys general in at least six states have declined to defend bans challenged by gay couples, but Olens made clear he wouldn’t follow the same path.
“Look I haven’t expressed an opinion on same-sex marriage. I’ve expressed an opinion on the role of the Attorney General to defend state law when there’s an absolute Supreme Court law that’s in violation of the state law … The issue is whether I have veto power over legislation, and it’s not the role of the Attorney General. It’s the role of the courts.”
He returned from the political graveyard after a brutal court fight this year, and now he’s got the full-throated support of his caucus leaders.
State Sen. Don Balfour, facing a tough re-election challenge, sent out word today that a gaggle of Senate leaders have his back. The loudest endorsement comes from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who calls it an “honor” to endorse him.
“I gave up my legislative pension and reduced my own pay because I didn’t come here for money – I came here to stand up for conservative principles. If the people again honor me with their votes, I will return to the Capitol to keep fighting for them and no one else, no matter the cost.”
About the Author
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He joined the newspaper in June 2012 after spending seven years with the Atlanta bureau of The Associated Press. He also contributes to the AJC's Political Insider blog. Bluestein has traveled to Haiti with President Jimmy Carter, journeyed to Panama with Gov. Nathan Deal and tracked down a suspected Ponzi schemer in suburban Kansas. He spent weeks in Louisiana covering the Gulf Oil Spill, became an unwitting expert on capital punishment after witnessing almost a dozen executions in Georgia's death chamber and was part of award-winning teams that descended upon the biggest breaking news events in the Southeast. Bluestein has covered a range of beats, including environment, legal affairs and economic development. He's now the AJC's political writer, charged with covering the intricacies of Georgia's lively government on the newspaper's front pages and in the Political Insider blog. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two daughters.