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An update on the first grandkids

POSTED: May 31, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The phone rang the other day and on the other end of the line was none other than Big Buddy.

Now, I don’t call him Big Buddy. That’s a title reserved only for his grandchildren and President Bush to use.

I call him "governor" or "sir."

Gov. Sonny Perdue doesn’t just up and call me out of the blue. I had requested a few moments on the phone after his planned flight to Gainesville last week was cancelled because of bad weather.

I have probably written about Perdue grandchildren more than any journalist in the state. So it was only natural that when I answered the phone we chatted a few minutes about the grandchildren.

The day after we talked, the governor and first lady, Mary, celebrated the arrival of grandchild No. 8. Samuel Ervin Ghioto was born on Friday at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. He weighed in at 6 pounds, 7 ounces. He is the son of the governor’s daughter, Lara, and her husband, Michael Ghioto.

I began my career on the gubernatorial grandchild beat with the arrival of Jake Perdue, the son of the governor’s son, Jim, and his wife, Stephanie.

At the time, Jim was a pastor in Forsyth County and we became friends.

The governor was in Washington when Jake was born in Gainesville. I was invited over to their home the night the governor and Mrs. Perdue came to see the baby for the first time.

About 21 months later, I came to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where Jake’s baby brother, Judd, was born. I made the picture that ended up on the front page of our paper.

I flew around the state with Perdue on the eve of his re-election. In the party were his oldest grandchildren, twin girls named Sunni and Mary Kate. I’ve written about them.

By the way, Jim and Stephanie, who now live in Tennessee, are expecting their third child. They have already learned that this one will be a girl.

"We’re going to beautify the family a little bit," said the governor. By the end of the year, there will be 10 Perdue grandchildren.

"We’re getting a little greedy here," he said.

This puts Perdue in a whole new league. Based on my research, this makes Sonny Perdue the hands-down champion grandfather of incumbent Georgia governors. No one in modern times has had that many grandchildren while holding Georgia’s top office.

As your gubernatorial grandchildren guru, let me give you a little more perspective. With 10, Perdue will have the same number of grandkids as Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, who is running for president.

If Romney were the nominee and he asked Perdue to be his vice president, they would have to build a separate grandstand for grandkids at the inauguration. Not suggesting anything, just food for thought.

He’s not in the league with Ron Paul, the Texas congressman and presidential candidate. He has 18 grandkids.

Perdue is also the grandkid leader in the tri-state water dispute. Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama has six, while Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is a bachelor and has no kids.

If the water talks get into a stalemate and they can’t decide who’ll speak first, Perdue could suggest that they give that role to the one with the most grandchildren.

Well, there you have it, the latest on the guv and the grandkids. It may not win me a prize, but ask those Atlanta reporters if Big Buddy returns their phone calls.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays in the print edition only and Sundays.



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