Vote Jason Carter for governor

You really thought we'd endorse Nathan Deal?

On Nov. 3, 2010, Nathan Deal stood victorious before a ballroom filled with supporters at the Buckhead Grand Hyatt. Fresh from defeating former Gov. Roy Barnes, Deal promised better days for the state.

"We're going to make the state great," said Deal, an unremarkable Republican congressman who fled Washington, D.C., under the cloud of an ethics scandal and managed to win statewide election despite his financial life being in shambles. "We're going to show the rest of the nation what this state can do."

That never happened. Four years later, the state sits at or near the bottom of national employment and education rankings. Since moving into the Governor's Mansion, Deal has been, for the most part, low key like his predecessor Sonny Perdue. He put most of his energy into deepening the Port of Savannah and pushing criminal justice reform, a groundbreaking multiyear, long-overdue effort that will be an important part of his legacy. He has been a decent manager. It was only in the last year, leading up to his re-election bid, that we saw Deal truly engaged and taking action. Education funding? Here's more than $500 million after a decade's worth of GOP cuts. State lawmakers couldn't pass legislation allowing medical marijuana for children suffering from seizures? Here's a pilot program via executive action.

During that time he's also been an ethical train wreck — a good ole boy of the first degree who has allowed the state to be dragged into scandals that have not only embarrassed taxpayers, but also cost them millions in settlements.

But it's what Deal hasn't done that builds the most damning case against him. And his lapses make us question the whole GOP agenda as a way of leading Georgia out of the swamp.

Hundreds of thousands of Georgia citizens remain uninsured. Georgia has done nothing at the state level to actively try to help combat or adapt to climate change. Georgia has the highest unemployment rate in the country. And it has among the worst poverty and HIV/AIDS infection rates in the nation. His long-term plan for transportation is non-existent.

Not all of Georgia's woes can be blamed on the chief executive. These systemic problems have been created in part by decades of selling corporations on cheap labor, a state economy that depended too much on homebuilding and the agriculture industry, and the slow death of the state's manufacturing sector. Like Perdue, Deal lacks vision. We don't know where he wants to take the state. Apparently, neither does he.

His grand plan to help people move around the state includes ... building the state's most expensive interchange at I-285 and Ga. 400, in the heart of GOP country. When asked how to address some of Georgia's maladies, Deal's aides pull a string and he parrots a dubious, subjective ranking by a low-circulation trade publication (that has enjoyed advertising dollars courtesy of state taxpayers) and a cable news network proclaiming Georgia is the best state in the country in which to do business. Georgia might be the "no. 1" place to do business, but for so many it's a tough place to live.

Libertarian Andrew Hunt, a nanotech entrepreneur and Georgia Tech graduate, has good ideas on legalizing medical marijuana and ending corporate giveaways. But he also is an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, and his big transportation fix revolves around synchronizing traffic lights.

Jason Carter has vision — something that's been lacking ever since Republicans took control. In his time in the Georgia Senate and on the campaign trail, Carter's been a smart voice for progressive policies including preventing thousands of students from losing their HOPE Scholarships. Like Barnes before him, Carter can actually paint a picture of what the state should look like in four years. The attorney and Candler Park resident wants to restore education funding, give residents of Fulton and DeKalb counties the chance to vote on a smaller sales tax proposal to fund transit, and help college students earn technical skills needed to work in growing industries. He's young and energetic, and he has bold ideas for modernizing Georgia.

There are holes in his platform, to be sure. He supported the asinine "Guns Everywhere" bill. And where Carter will actually find all the cash to pay for his proposals remains to be seen.

Giving Carter the keys to the governor's office would bring much-needed checks and balances to state government, which is currently — and will for some time — be controlled entirely by Republicans. This mix could make for some messy legislative sessions marked by vetoes and other political brinksmanship. There could even be gridlock between the legislative and executive branches. We invite the shit show. Let there be open debate and disagreements about policy, and let the two sides meet in the middle if need be. The state needs this. Georgia needs Jason Carter. There is no better candidate.

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