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Monday, July 19, 2010 - 4:59am

Barnes, Handel Get Debate Focus

Updated: 4 years ago.
Democratic and Republican candidates for governor debated Sunday night at GPB. (photo-Edgar Treiguts)

Today’s the final day for candidates in numerous state and local races to campaign, before tomorrow’s primary election across Georgia.

Last night for the high-profile governor’s race, there were debates for the candidates -- hosted by GPB and sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club.

In the debate of Democratic hopefuls, almost all questions went to Roy Barnes. Polls show the former governor the clear frontrunner for the primary.

At one point Sunday night, House Minority Leader and candidate Dubose Porter accused Barnes of leaving the Democratic Party in shambles after his election defeat eight years ago:

“When defeated, (you) left as those of us stayed to rebuild the party. And when you came back to run for governor, you said you weren’t sure whether you wanted to be a Whig or a Democrat. Roy, are you a Whig or a Democrat?” Barnes: “Well I’ll tell you this. Now listen, all of us make mistakes. I hope we have enough sense to learn from them.”

Barnes has apologized numerous times for not listening to teachers when he implemented education reform.

Barnes meanwhile, kept his eyes on Republican rivals during the debate, assailing plans to eliminate the state income tax.

Also running are for the Democratic nomination, along with Barnes and Porter, are state attorney general Thurbert Baker, former Georgia National Guard Commander David Poythress, state Rep. Randal Mangham, ex-Ray City Mayor Carl Camon and Bill Bolton.

In the Republican primary debate Sunday night, there was focus on one hopeful not on stage, former Secretary of State Karen Handel. During the debate, former U.S. Rep and candidate Nathan Deal pointed to the empty podium where Handel would have been.

“I think it’s important also for us to nominate somebody who will actually show up on televised debates such as this. Can you imagine what would happen if Roy Barnes shows-up for a debate prior to the November election, and there’s an empty podium?”

Deal, state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and ex-state Sen. Eric Johnson each took a shot at Handel.

Handel has refused to appear in previous debate settings with candidate Ray McBerry on stage.

Eight years ago, McBerry was accused of an inappropriate relationship with a teenage girl. He has denied the charges.

For Handel, new polls show her gaining ground or leading in the GOP primary race.

Deal, Oxendine, and Johnson were joined on stage for Sunday's debate by state Senator Jeff Chapman. Another candidate, Otis Putnam, was a no-show for the proceedings.

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