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05 May 2010

Karen Handel May Not Participate In Atlanta Press Club Debates This Summer

Citing allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor, the gubernatorial campaign of Karen Handel campaign sent out an email Monday declaring that their candidate would no longer appear on the same stage as Ray McBerry.

That declaration by Karen Handel may now result in her not participating in one of Georgia's most widely televised candidate forums this summer; the Atlanta Press Club-sponsored debate series.

The Handel campaign said they've penciled in the Atlanta Press Club debates, and hope to take part, but again refused to appear on the same stage with McBerry.

"It's a matter of principle for Karen," Handel campaign spokesman Dan McLagan said in a telephone interview. "She does not believe giving [Ray McBerry] a platform is good for Georgia or the GOP. She's not going to compromise her principles for a little t.v. time."

Ray McBerry, a Republican candidate for governor, has been dogged by media reports that he engaged in an improper sexual relationship with a minor under the age of 18 while teaching in the Henry County School System. McBerry has repeatedly denied any misconduct, even vowing to take legal action against those who repeat the allegations.

McLagan said that having McBerry as a participant in debates and forums across the state legitimizes a man who "had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl."

"It's telling the people of Georgia that we as a Party accept McBerry's behavior," McLagan said.

When asked if McBerry would receive an invitation to their gubernatorial debate, Atlanta Press Club Executive Director Lauri Strauss said the organization has a policy that invites "all candidates who have properly qualified with the secretary of state’s office and are on the ballot to participate in our debates."

Ray McBerry qualified for the GOP gubernatorial primary April 28th.

The dates of the Atlanta Press Club debate series have yet to be announced. Traditionally though, the forums are held in June.