A fourth candidate for governor signed up on Thursday. Any more will officially qualify as a surprise.
State School Superintendent John Barge, who has raised hardly any money for the contest, wrote a personal check for $5,220 to join former Dalton mayor David Pennington in the primary contest to oust Republican incumbent Nathan Deal.
Barge admitted that he doesn’t have much cash. “Fundraising is a challenge. Frankly, a lot of folks who can donate money are afraid to. They’ll tell you they’re afraid to be on record. So we’re using a lot of social media,” he said.
But Barge said he does have a network of teachers supporting him. “We have some leverage there,” he said. Those votes, he posited, will stampede to Democrat Jason Carter should he lose.
Barge began his post-qualifying session with reporters with an attack on Gov. Nathan Deal:
“Dwight Eisenhower said the supreme character of leadership is integrity. When we rank dead last in the nation in public integrity, we’ve got a lack of leadership.
“True leaders make life better for those that are younger than them. When you look at all of the data and all of the stats, life is not better for young folks in Georgia.”
Barge also explained why he saw no reason to simply run for another term as school superintendent:
“Because we’ve all seen where that’s going. The governor has begun to dismantle the state agency, to take pieces of the state agency under areas of his control. We’ve seen that done with the Department of Labor.
“We saw the department gutted, we saw their money put into offices that he controls. And the same thing will happen with the Department of Education. And that’s not going to benefit anyone.”
Barge said that he’s already had an impact on the race – citing the governor’s retreat on some aspects of a new state employee health insurance plan adopted last fall.
The head of the Department of Education also took the time to condemn SB 167, a bill now in the House that would force Georgia to drop Common Core, the new educational standards that many Republican conservatives have condemned as federal encroachment.
Barge said the legislation could jeopardize “over $1 billion” in Title I and other federal funds desperately needed by schools in Georgia to help poor and disabled students.
The school superintendent also said that language in the bill could forbid use of the SAT and ACT in Georgia – though he conceded that this isn’t the intent of lawmakers. Said Barge:
“When you read the language of that bill, it says that we can’t administer a test that is aligned to national standards. Well, the SAT, the ACT, they’re going to be aligned to the Common Core. You could interpret that literally to mean we can’t administer that test.”
While the Obama administration might not want to hand the Port of Savannah expansion a pile of money just yet, the final call lies with Congress, and there are conflicting views on just how feasible such a move will be.
Jack Kingston, a frequent dispenser of earmarks in his day but one who also fought for their extinction, said Wednesday:
“Under the House rules, this is an earmark. And so for us to place something in the budget which is not in the budget already – it’s not allowed.”
But on Wednesday evening, a statement arrived from the Georgia delegation’s other senior appropriator, Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany. Said Bishop:
“While I am disappointed that direct funding was not included in the President’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, Congress can still work to include funds through the budgeting process to continue the project.”
Indications are from the Senate side that Congress could come through with an appropriation if it also passes the long-delayed Water Resources and Development Act. The Obama administration already has dedicated a line item to the project, so Congress is not creating a pork project from thin air.
Branko “Dr. Rad” Radulovacki late Wednesday took a shot at Democratic Senate rival Michelle Nunn for what he considered a tepid response to the White House’s failure to come through with cash for the dredging of the Port of Savannah:
“From what I understand, people familiar with this issue had chances to ask questions of the Vice President last night, or the Director of the OMB last week. Why didn’t they get answers? Instead, they played it safe by expressing “disappointment’ and ‘confusion’ and blaming ‘bureaucracy,’ ‘inefficiency,’ and ‘red tape.’ That’s more of the take-no-responsibility finger-pointing that’s indicative of Washington’s dysfunction.
Republicans are eager to compare Democrat Jason Carter with his famous grandfather, the former president. Gov. Nathan Deal’s camp has several times tried to tie the ex-president’s liberal record to his scion’s bid for governor.
Yet Deal was reminded Wednesday in the middle of a media scrum that he, too, supported the elder Carter in the 1970s while he was a Democrat. Doug Richards, a reporter for 11 Alive, questioned Deal on whether he voted for the native son in 1976 during his presidential run.
“I probably did. I was a Democrat at that time. I had good friends who were very supportive of his campaign,” said Deal, who added that he doesn’t care who Carter’s forefathers are. After all, the governor noted, media aren’t asking him about his lineage.
“I don’t think that’s what’s important. I think the candidate should stand on his own footing.”