Sunday, July 30, 2006

Martin vs. Hecht shouldn't be overlooked

It seems like Cynthia McKinney's bitter battle with Hank Johnson for US Congressional District 4 is getting all of the publicity. Shoot, even C-SPAN is getting in on the act by nationally televising tomorrow night's debate between those two. That is, if Cynthia shows up as promised.

But the significance of the Aug. 8th runoff between Democrat Lt. Gov. candidates, Jim Martin and Greg Hecht, can't be underestimated. The Lt. Gov. position is a natural launching pad for Governor. Depending on which party is occupying the Governor's mansion in January 2007, Georgia's next Lt. Gov. could be on the ballot for Governor in 2010.

Casey Cagle hasn't even won the Lt. Governorship, yet he's already entertaining thoughts about running for the top spot next time around. If he should win this year, he'll be in a prime position no matter who wins between Perdue and Mark Taylor this year, since his fellow Republican Perdue can't run for a third term.

But getting a Democrat into the Lt. Gov. spot this year would be sweet. If Perdue wins re-election as expected, we'll have a high profile Dem. waiting in the wings with a chance to win. If Taylor should upset Perdue, Dems will be in a satisfying position of supporting an incumbent governor while giving either Martin or Hecht even more time to add to their respective records before 2014.

This morning's Gwinnett Daily Post has a recap of our two candidates for Lt. Gov, their qualifications, their key issues, and what's happened so far.................

Democratic runoff for lieutenant gov. between lawyers

By Dave Williams, Staff Writer dave.williams

ATLANTA — Georgia Democrats fielded a diverse group of candidates in this month’s primary for lieutenant governor. Three white and two black hopefuls were competing for the nomination. Broken down by profession, the contest included two lawyers, two businessmen and a former journalist. But when the votes were counted on July 18, it was the candidates with the most similarities who emerged as the top two vote getters, setting up an Aug. 8 runoff between two white lawyers who once served in the General Assembly.

Former Rep. Jim Martin of Atlanta captured 41.2 percent of the primary vote, to 36.4 percent for former Sen. Greg Hecht of Jonesboro. The winner of next weekÂ’s runoff will face state Sen. Casey Cagle, the Gainesville-area Republican who upended Ralph Reed to win the GOP nod.

Because of their shared backgrounds and political philosophies, the differences Martin, 60, and Hecht, 42, have cited between themselves on the campaign trail are more a matter of degree than substance. Both have criticized Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Republican-controlled Legislature for cutting the formula that governs per-pupil spending in GeorgiaÂ’s public schools.

But Martin has put more emphasis on health insurance and economic development, while Hecht has talked more about long-term care for the elderly and developing alternative fuels.

Insurance pool

Martin has made a plan to create a health insurance pool that small businesses could buy into a keystone of his campaign. He said such a pool not only would reduce Georgia’s unacceptably high number of uninsured, but also would foster economic development by making it easier for small business owners to create jobs. Martin said small businesses should be at the heart of the state’s economic development strategy because major projects like the Kia auto plant due to break ground soon near LaGrange are few and far between. “We’re going to improve jobs in Georgia by building a plant next to Alabama,’’ he said. “Let Alabama help pay for it.’’

Hecht said the state should be doing everything it can to promote the fledgling biofuels industry as a way to replace some of the jobs lost in recent years. He’s also calling for state health care policymakers to do more to explore independent living options for Georgia seniors, including assisted living and home health care. “Long-term care facilities are important,’’ he said. “But people deserve choices and the ability to stay independent as long as they can.’’

Both men also have been talking up their legislative records. MartinÂ’s is longer. He spent 18 years in the House, rising up the ranks to become chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee back when Democrats held the majority in the lower chamber. Martin left the General Assembly in 2001 when he was appointed by then-Gov. Roy Barnes to head the Georgia Department of Human Resources. He was in the job for two years before Perdue replaced him.

Hecht spent two years in the House and four in the Senate before running for Congress in 2002, finishing second in the Democratic primary. During those six years, he served as chairman of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over the state prison system and chairman of a budget subcommittee.

Negative campaign

With the two candidates in general agreement on the issues, their respective records have become fodder for what has deteriorated into a negative campaign. Martin has staked a claim to the high road, objecting to mailers sent out by the Hecht campaign slamming his record for protecting women and children as a lawmaker and DHR commissioner.

One stated that 72 abused or neglected Georgia children whose cases had been brought to the DHR’s attention died while Martin was heading the agency. The second accused Martin of having made callous comments about rape victims while he was unsuccessfully pushing a bill that would have made it harder to prosecute rape cases. “We ran our campaign in a way we’re proud of,’’ Martin said. “What Greg’s campaign chose was attacks not based on facts but on misrepresentations of what I’ve done.’’

Hecht conceded that the mailer dealing with the rape bill was “too graphic.’’ But he accused Martin of appearing before women’s groups and touting himself as the only pro-women’s rights candidate in the race. In fact, said Hecht, he was serving as an assistant district attorney prosecuting rape cases while Martin had his legislation before the General Assembly. “For this guy to go around saying he’s a champion for women when he is not is outrageous,’’ Hecht said.

Both Martin and Hecht played the endorsement game following the primary, courting support from the candidates who finished out of the running on July 18. Griffin Lotson, the Darien businessman who came in fourth, has endorsed Martin, citing the negative tone of HechtÂ’s campaign. Hecht has landed an endorsement from state Sen. Steen Miles of Decatur, who finished third and was the only candidate besides the two runoff participants to garner more than 10 percent of the vote.


GArunner said...

Good article. While I prefer Hecht's policy platform (esp. biofuels and commuter rail), it is true that the two candidates are very similar.

We really need to ask ourselves three questions: first, which candidate has the best chance to beat Casey Cagle? Second, which candidate can best help Mark Taylor beat Perdue? Third, which candidate will be the future of the Democratic Party in Georgia, ready to run for Governor after Taylor moves on?

Here, the answers are Hecht, Hecht, and Hecht. Hecht is young but already has a solid resume of public service. Unlike Martin, Hecht is viewed as a moderate and has state-wide appeal.

Martin may be good at exciting the Atlanta liberal base, but he is not going to do much getting Taylor elected, nevertheless getting elected himself. Let's not even consider a future run at the Governor's office for Martin (already 62).

Button Gwinnett said...

Yeah, I've given biofuels a lot of play here on this blog as it's a big interest of mine for economic and environmental reasons. So I like what Hecht has to say on that. For the same reasons, I like what he says about transportation too - and not just commuter rail. When I've heard him speak on transporation, I've gotten the impression that he sees "the big picture." So if Hecht wins, he's someone I can support in Nov. based on ideas.

Honestly, I'm not even sure if Hecht or Martin is entertaining serious thoughts of being governor one day. Martin's age may or may not play into that. It's just natural to assume they are. And unfortunately, Cagle made it clear that it's not too far from his mind.