Political Notes — Taylor renews land deal criticisms

Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor charged Monday that Gov. Sonny Perdue broke the law and violated his oath of office when he failed to disclose the acquisition of a 100-acre tract of land in Houston County two years ago.

With a new poll that showed the race for governor tightening between Perdue and Taylor, the lieutenant governor held a news conference at the capitol to accuse Perdue of benefiting financially from his elected office and demand that Perdue explain the property transaction.

"Gov. Perdue chose his own pockets over the people of Georgia," Taylor said. "This time, Sonny did it to us. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a clear conflict of interest."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday that Perdue did not disclose his 2004 purchase of more than 100 acres in Houston County that was adjacent to a tract of undeveloped land known as Oaky Woods.

The state Department of Natural Resources passed on the opportunity to buy the property, so the 20,000-acre Oaky Woods preserve was later sold to a group of local developers who plan to put an estimated 35,000 houses there. Perdue’s property has more than doubled in value to $750,100 since Oaky Woods was sold, the newspaper said.

"At no time did he [Perdue] ever reveal his conflict of interest," Taylor charged. "At no time did he disclose [his ownership]. This is against the law and he violated his oath of office when he did it."

"Imagine how much Gov. Perdue’s land will be worth when 35,000 homes appear" on the Oaky Woods tract, Taylor added.

“Mark Taylor sounds like a broken record,” said Perdue campaign spokesman Derrick Dickey. “All he knows is attack, attack, attack, and he doesn’t let the facts get in the way.”

“Sonny completely disclosed the ownership of land he bought next to his home in 2005 and again this year,” Dickey added. “This is just another desperate accusation from Mark Taylor’s disintegrating campaign.”

The late-breaking revelations of Perdue’s land deals may have contributed to a tightening of his margin over Taylor in the polls leading up to the Nov. 7 general election.

Perdue has been ahead of Taylor by 15 to 20 points ever since the primary elections in July, but a poll released Monday by InsiderAdvantage showed that Perdue’s lead had narrowed to 48-40 percent, with Libertarian candidate Garrett Michael Hayes drawing 7 percent and 5 percent undecided.

Another poll released Monday by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had Perdue ahead of Taylor by 53-36 percent with 3 percent for Hayes and 8 percent undecided.

The AJC poll, however, was conducted Wednesday through Friday of last week. The InsiderAdvantage poll was conducted Friday through Sunday as newspapers around the state were reporting on Perdue’s latest land deal and the DUI arrest of his campaign manager.

"The biggest issue of this last week of the campaign is Sonny Perdue’s use of his office for his own personal gain," Taylor said. "It is wrong, wrong, wrong . . . that’s why this race is tightening and we feel very, very good about winning on Nov. 7."

Perdue’s campaign has maintained all along that none of the governor’s real estate transactions, which include the $2 million purchase of property located near Disney World in Florida from a Georgia developer, were illegal or improper.

In a Sunday night debate with Taylor, Perdue said it would not have been "functional" for him to put his assets in a blind trust, as other governors have done, because of the nature of the agri-business he owns and operates in Houston County.

"I am a small business owner, I’m in the agri-business," Perdue said. "That’s about as blind a trust as you can get. We trust in the Lord for rain and many other things."

Small businesses such as the one he owns "are not like a lawyer, they’re not like a stock investor . . . a blind trust is not functional for a small business person," Perdue added.

Taylor criticized Perdue in the latest land deal for not moving as governor to acquire the Oaky Woods tract for the state so that the area could be preserved in its natural state. At the time that Weyerhauser had the forest land up for sale, however, the state was in an economic slowdown and Perdue and the Legislature were having a difficult time balancing the budget.

Miller time

The Perdue campaign, meanwhile, went up with another TV spot Monday that features Zell Miller, a former governor and former Democrat, making the case for another term for Perdue.

Miller, of course, was a political mentor to Perdue’s Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, when Taylor was a state senator and the governor’s floor leader during Miller’s administration in the 1990s. Miller cut TV spots for Taylor when he ran for reelection four years ago, and the defection of Miller to the Republican camp was one of many crushing blows for Taylor’s campaign for governor this year.

The Perdue commercial is a feel-good ad that intersperses stock images of kids, schools, roads, airplanes, and Perdue holding hands with his wife. Although Miller’s voice is heard throughout the spot, his creased and wrinkled face doesn’t fill the screen until almost the end.

The transcript of Miller’s narrative:

Today, more babies will be born in Georgia than at any time in our history. More kids will go to school, graduate, and become HOPE scholars. 243,900 people will get up and go to work in newly created jobs. 670 Georgians will buy a new home. 2,500 planes will take off and land from the world’s busiest airport.

And today, dozens of small business owners will turn the key to their new office. And in just a few days we’ll go to the polls to tell Sonny Perdue we like the job he’s doing and to get back in there and keep Georgia the envy of this nation for another four years.

(View the Miller ad here.)

The Black Attack

Republican nominee Gary Black aired an attack ad Monday against incumbent Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin that accuses Irvin of supporting the incursion of undocumented immigrant farm workers into Georgia. For good measure, the ad displays a photo of Irvin talking to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004.

Narrator: After 37 years serving as agriculture commissioner, Tommy Irvin is out of touch. Irvin even lobbied Georgia’s congressmen to make undocumented migrant workers legal residents.

Gary Black: I’m Gary Black and I say no to amnesty. I’ve spent my entire life promoting Georgia agriculture and I have a plan to help our state grow, develop biofuels, protect our food supply, promote Georgia products here and abroad. I’m Gary Black, and I’d be honored to earn your vote.

(View the Black ad here.)

© 2006 by Capitolimpact.com

Tags: politics