Perdue, Taylor kick off furious round of campaigning

GREG BLUESTEIN
Associated Press

KENNESAW, Ga. – Gov. Sonny Perdue and Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor kicked off another round of furious campaigning Saturday in hopes of energizing the party faithful just days before Georgia voters head to the polls to decide the governor’s race.

Stumping in Kennesaw as part of a 5-city tour, Perdue talked of a "sweep spirit" that could propel Republicans to victory in statewide offices the party hasn’t held in generations. "It doesn’t get any better than this," he said, breaking into a wide grin.

He spoke over the din of "liar, liar" chants from a group of a dozen or so flag-waving demonstrators who favor Georgia’s 1956 flag with a Confederate emblem.

"In a moment, I’ll let you speak to them and we’ll have a four more years chant," Perdue told a few dozen cheering supporters.

Meanwhile, Taylor and state Democratic leaders made a 7-stop swing through metro Atlanta. At their final stop, the parking lot of a Lawrenceville mall, the Democrat asked a handful of supporters to raise their right hands and repeat a pledge: "I will not be outworked between now and Nov. 7."

Supporters of the divisive 1956 flag took credit for Perdue’s surprise 2002 victory over Democrat Gov. Roy Barnes, saying they favored the Republican because they hoped he’d back a bid to let voters pick the state flag. That choice was given to the Legislature instead, a move that still rankles some.

While not as vocal during this campaign – Perdue staffers say flag protests have been rare during the governor’s campaign stops – the demonstrators claim there are thousands of upset rural voters who will cast a protest vote in favor of Taylor or libertarian candidate Garrett Hayes.

The flag flappers point to the roughly 50,000 votes earned by Ray McBerry, a candidate who emphasized the issue in his Republican primary bid against Perdue. They also say two groups, the Southern Heritage Political Action Committee and the Southern Party of Georgia, have raised more than $20,000 to run radio and newspaper ads across the state.

"I think Perdue could be in for a surprise," said Tim Pilgrim, the secretary of the Southern Heritage group who wore a Confederate uniform to protest Perdue’s appearance. "We don’t have a lot of money, but we have a lot of dedicated people that feel strongly about our heritage."

Taylor, who backed the new flag, said he welcomes their support. "Nobody likes to have promises made and promises broken," he said. "I have never lied to them."

Taylor stumped with a handful of Democratic candidates, including Secretary of State hopeful Gail Buckner and longtime Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey and a handful of statewide candidates joined Perdue on his campaign swing. Also appearing with Perdue was Georgia Supreme Court candidate Mike Wiggins, a conservative candidate with tacit GOP support in the nonpartisan race.

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