Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum. Nathan Deal greets a customer of Smiley's as he leaves a luncheon held in his honor Friday.
PORTERDALE -- GOP candidate Nathan Deal was in Porterdale Friday to address supporters as he makes his final push to win the governor's seat.
Deal spoke before an invitation-only crowd at Smiley's restaurant. The event was hosted by the Newton County Committee for Nathan Deal.
Deal used the occasion to promise no new taxes and briefly outline his agenda to create more jobs in Georgia, and also to take aim at his Democratic opponent, former governor Roy Barnes.
"Barnes has reached a desperate stage," Deal said. "When you get as desperate as he is, you'll say just about anything."
Deal criticized a new television commercial by the Barnes campaign alleging that Deal attempted to weaken protection for rape victims.
"I'm the only one in the race for governor that's ever sent a rapist to prison," said Deal, a former prosecutor.
Deal also spoke of the "tremendous suffering" of his daughter and son-in-law due to press coverage of their financial struggles. Deal invested about $2 million on a failed business venture by his daughter and her husband and guaranteed a series of bank loans to the business as its debt was mounting. Deal and his wife, Sandra, were left responsible for the financial obligations after their daughter filed for bankruptcy.
"I think most Georgians do try to help their family and it's hard to watch your children work as hard as they can at something that doesn't succeed. I don't think they need to be held up to ridicule. Any candidate that does that should not be supported by Georgians," he said.
If elected, Deal said a top priority will be creating more jobs for Georgia residents, saying the state needs to have a more favorable tax climate for businesses. Many out-of-state companies are looking to relocate because they have been overtaxed and over-regulated, and it's time for state officials to sit down with those CEOs and encourage them to come to Georgia, he said. Deal added that Newton County is a prime candidate for more businesses due to its proximity to the interstate and the airport.
Deal said he doubts Barnes' promises to spend $2.4 billion on education.
"If we had $2.4 billion to spend on education ... I would be in favor of it. But the truth of the matter is we don't have the money, and I don't think this is a good point in time to start raising your taxes even for a good cause," he said.
Deal said great strides have been made in public education with charter schools, and said he would support giving local school systems more say in where their state funds go.
"They may say, 'We don't need that new bus,' we'd rather keep teachers or avoid furloughs,'" he said. "Flexibility has generally produced good results."
Deal pledged twice that he would not support a tax increase, adding Georgians need to be leery of those who would propose expanding welfare and other assistance programs, and raising taxes to pay for those expansions.
He said he's the best candidate for governor because, "I understand real world experience on every level." He noted that as an attorney and juvenile court judge, he understands family issues, and as a former state senator and congressman, he understands local, state and national governments and issues.
"I have been a dedicated public servant. I haven't been suing the citizens of this state, putting cases before judges I appointed," he said, getting in another dig at Barnes. Deal's campaign has alleged Barnes' law practice has prospered from bringing cases before judges he appointed while governor.
The latest polls show that Deal has a slight lead over Barnes in the governor's race. The General Election is Nov. 2.