Georgia’s three candidates for governor battled hard Sunday in a student-sponsored debate that touched on education, jobs and transportation.
In their first televised debate, Republican Nathan Deal, Democrat Roy Barnes and Libertarian John Monds threw numerous verbal body blows in the forum sponsored by the student government groups from five Georgia universities.
Barnes attacked Deal in connection with questions that emerged following a loan Deal made to his daughter and son-in-law to start a business, which failed.
“I have demanded you disclose your financial statements,” Barnes said. “You have repeatedly amended them.”
Barnes said that when casting their vote, people should look at it like a business decision, adding, “If you have a business, who would you want to run that business?”
Deal defended his behavior in regard to the failed business venture before an audience of students at Georgia Public Broadcasting. He said he did what many parents do to help their children — indeed, what many students in attendance would hope their parents would do.
Deal said he is living up to his financial obligations. He said he’s “paid the taxes that the law required of me” and argued his personal financial woes would not impact his ability to run the state.
Then, in an apparent jab at Barnes, who is an attorney, he said that he is not making his money suing the Georgia government.
Barnes also refused to say whether he would vote again for President Barack Obama, saying, “I don’t know. I would have to see who else is running.”
Monds joined in after Barnes touted his record on education during his time as governor.
Attacking Barnes’ claims, Monds said that Georgia has been “at the bottom or near the bottom” compared to other states in education.
With only a month before the November election, each candidate repeatedly hit on their major themes.
Deal promised he would bring more limited government to Georgia. Indeed, he said that considering the current economic problems and ensuing state budget problems, “We don’t have the money.”
Deal also said he would battle the effects on Georgia of the federal health care overhaul, which he said would be a burden.
“People all across the country believe the federal government should be more limited,” he said. “I understand the role of elected officials.”
He also said he was not making “irresponsible promises” like Barnes, adding that Barnes has said he would add $2 billion in spending.
Barnes took exception with the characterization and the figure, saying, “I don’t trust your adding.”
Monds said he would bring more limited government to Georgia. In response to a student’s question on crime around college campuses, he said he would favor allowing students to carry guns on campus.
Barnes, addressing the controversy of illegal immigrants attending state schools, said, “Immigration is a problem that is going to have to be solved on a national basis.” For now, he said, “If you’re here illegally, you have to be accountable to the law” in regards to attending state schools.
Deal, responding to a question on crimes against gays, said that people should not be bullied or harmed due to their sexual orientation.
Speaking to the state’s student dropout problems, Deal said he supports allowing students who are ready to take the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests earlier in the school year, so they can move on to topics that keep them engaged in their education. He said testing should “not be our primary focus.”
Monds said he favored placing more control in the hands of local school officials.
On transportation, Monds said he favored more public-private partnerships to enhance transportation.
“We need new faces, we need new ideas,” he said.