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14 March 2010

Unfiltered Thoughts On The GOP Gubernatorial Forum

Saturday, March 13, the Georgia Tech College Republicans hosted a forum featuring six of the seven candidates vying for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. I was among those in the audience listening as Jeff Chapman, Nathan Deal, Karen Handel, Eric Johnson, John Oxendine and Austin Scott discussed a variety of issues ranging from taxes to illegal immigration.

There isn't much that separates the Georgia Republican candidates for governor. They all agreed that Georgians should not see their taxes increase in this tough economic climate. They all chastised the Board of Regents for playing games (Oxendine), scaring people with "budget armageddon" (Handel), and called on the University System of Georgia's governing board to act responsibly in allocating the resources given to them by the legislature (Deal). Citing local control, most of the candidates said they would not veto a bill allowing local communities to vote on Sunday alcohol sales even though they may personally be opposed to the idea.

The candidates spent a lot of time on the so-called social issues. They all said they were pro-life. They all said they were pro-2nd Amendment. John Oxendine said that Georgia's gun laws were way too restrictive. Eric Johnson said there were legitimate reasons why students should be able to pack heat on campus. Austin Scott, however, said he opposed allowing students to carry guns to class. John Oxendine said that Georgia's gun laws were way too restrictive. Nathan Deal called for responsible right-to-carry laws.

While discussing the 2nd Amendment, State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine provided the crowd with the smarmy comment of the afternoon. The Ox volunteered that when he was a young man in college, he often walked the young ladies back to their dorms at night. Trust me on this one, the reaction to Oxendine's comment was a pretty much universal "OMG, I cannot believe he just said that."

There was very little discussion about jobs, and how to put Georgians back to work. I was a disappointed at that. As I said to someone after the forum concluded, when people are out of work, they're more concerned about putting food on the table and ensuring that their families have a roof over their heads. Abortion and gun control really don't matter a whole helluva lot when folks are hungry.

Overall, I don't believe any minds were changed or made up after the Saturday afternoon event. If an individual walked into the room supporting Karen Handel or Austin Scott, they probably left the room still supporting Karen Handel or Austin Scott. There were no breakout moments that distinguished one Republican from the other. There were no winners or losers. It was a tie.

The Georgia Tech College Republicans put together a good event, and they should be commended for that. It is no small feat to get six candidates for anything --especially governor-- in the same room at the same time. The Georgia Tech College Republicans did it and were very well organized. Well done.