Houston & Peach

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Scheduling kills first debate in governor’s race

It looks like Macon narrowly missed out on hosting the first major debate of the 2010 gubernatorial elections next month because all the campaigns couldn’t get together on a date.

Mercer University had been trying to put together a debate for Dec. 7 or 8, but it wanted to invite eight campaigns and not all of them could make the date, Mercer Senior Vice President Larry Brumley said.

“It, pure and simple, was a scheduling issue,” Brumley said. “(It was) like a puzzle, trying to get all the pieces to fit.”

There are more than eight people running for governor, but Brumley said Mercer was focusing on candidates polling at 4 percent or more in recent Rasmussen and Strategic Vision polls. Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, Secretary of State Karen Handel and recently retired state Sen. Eric Johnson all made that cut for the Republicans, and Attorney General Thurbert Baker, former Gov. Roy Barnes, Dublin area state Rep. DuBose Porter and former Georgia National Guard Commander David Poythress did so for the Democrats.

Brumley said he didn’t know Friday whether the debate can be rescheduled, but that will probably be looked at around the first of the year.

The debate would have been a homecoming of sorts for at least two of the candidates. Poythress is from Macon, and Deal got his undergraduate and law degrees from Mercer.

The Ox in Macon today

Speaking of the 2010 gubernatorial race, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine plans to be in Macon today, stumping at a gun show at the Wilson Convention Center.

Bill Knowles, the local coordinator for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign last year and now Oxendine’s Bibb County campaign manager, will be working the show with the commissioner.

“John is very pro-Second Amendment,” Knowles said. “He tries to make it to every gun show that he can to rally his supporters.”

Knowles also is one of several Oxendine supporters from around the state featured in the campaign’s latest online video, which details Oxendine’s “Contract with Georgia.” Knowles, standing in front of the Otis Redding statue by the Ocmulgee River downtown, reads item No. 1 of the contract: “Make state government smaller and more accountable by implementing zero-based budgeting.”

Merger headaches

The Bibb County Board of Commissioners will ask Macon whether basic, critical emergency services such as 911 and the Emergency Management Agency are up to snuff. Commissioner Joe Allen said one woman who’d been robbed of her purse and knocked down was put on hold by 911. She called back. And later she discovered 911 had no record of her call, Allen said.

But commissioners debated the adequacy of shared services just moments before they discussed a plan to further share services and ultimately consolidate. That had unanimous support from the commissioners, though none of them pointed out any ironies in the situation. The city and county are trying to consolidate the engineering and animal control departments now in a process that could be used as a model for future mergers.

Baker scores Clinton fundraiser

Also speaking of the 2010 gubernatorial race, Attorney General Thurbert Baker will score major fundraising points next month when he welcomes former President Bill Clinton to a New York fundraiser for Baker’s campaign for governor.

“President Clinton brought people together to build a strong economy and create a record number of new jobs,” Baker said in announcing the event this week. “That’s what I will do for Georgia as governor, and I’m honored to have President Clinton’s support and counsel as we work to bring a much needed new direction to our state.”

You may remember that Baker, a Democrat, raised some eyebrows during the presidential elections by endorsing now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary instead of eventual winner Barack Obama who, like Baker, is black.

Staff writers Travis Fain and Mike Stucka compiled this report.