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Husband-wife candidates raise interest, eyebrows

Experts weigh in on Porters’ bid for state’s top offices

POSTED: February 25, 2010 11:28 p.m.
ERIK S. LESSER/The Associated Press

Carol Porter, left, is seen with her husband, Rep. Dubose Porter (D-Dublin) at their apartment on Wednesday in Atlanta. Carol Porter says she is planning a campaign of her own for lieutenant governor, while her husband is already running for governor.

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ATLANTA — No one in Georgia political circles can recall a situation quite like this.

Thursday, Carol Porter of Dublin announced her candidacy for lieutenant governor, making her the first Democrat to enter the race against incumbent Casey Cagle, a Gainesville Republican.

Her husband, state House Minority Leader DuBose Porter, is seeking the Democratic nod for governor in the same election.

How a husband-and-wife team will play with voters remains a big unknown.

“I think that for a lot of voters, it may be too unusual a situation,” said Tom Baxter, editor of the Southern Political Report. “By the same token, given voters’ interest in novelty, it might attract some votes. ... It changes the dynamics of the race.”

The scenario isn’t completely new in U.S. politics. Janet Huckabee ran an unsuccessful campaign for Arkansas secretary of state in 2002, the year her husband, Mike Huckabee, was re-elected governor.

University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock said Carol Porter’s entrance into a statewide race may actually be good news for her husband’s gubernatorial aspirations, at least in the short term.

“He’s about to get a lot of free media attention,” Bullock said.

“It will increase public attention on both races, which might increase voter turnout and attract more national attention than either race would have gotten,” said Douglas Young, a political science and history professor at Gainesville State College in Oakwood. “The fact that both are underdogs may be a net plus.”

Yet that attention could be a double-edged sword.

“There’s the potential that attention drifts toward her and away from him,” Baxter said.

DuBose Porter is locked in a tough race for the Democratic nomination. Carol Porter is the only announced Democrat seeking Cagle’s job.

“This could be a case of the political novice making it to the final round (the November general election), and the veteran doesn’t,” Bullock said.

Young said he isn’t sure voters are ready to hand that much political power to one couple.

“Certainly if the Porters win each office, it strikes me that we may have closer cooperation between the governor and lieutenant governor than ever before,” Young said. “Fans of the Porter agenda will think this is great.

“On the other hand, voters might be concerned that having a husband-wife team might upset the checks and balances of government. A lot of them, I would think, like the idea of the lieutenant governor being a more independent figure and not just potentially rubber-stamp whatever the governor wants.”

Bullock also said Carol Porter’s path might be easier than her husband’s for another reason.

The lieutenant governor’s race doesn’t have the high visibility of the governor’s race. Voters, he said, don’t look to those candidates to have a whole platform of initiatives implemented if they are elected.

“We expect that from gubernatorial candidates, and as such, the voters are paying much more attention,” Bullock said.

Gainesville attorney Wyc Orr, a Democrat and former state representative, said he is acquainted with Carol Porter and believes she’ll be a formidable candidate.

“She’s a very impressive person who speaks with great ease and experience on the issues,” Orr said. “She’s a compelling candidate.”

Orr said he believes voters are growing frustrated with government and may look past political party labels when they go to the polls later this year.

“Voters are going to look very carefully at the different candidates and their proposed solutions to the issues,” Orr said. “People are looking for effective government and at who can take us past all the squabbling and conflict and bring effective solutions to the table.”

Baxter said Carol Porter could draw some female voters from across the political divide.

“There might be some potential for Republican women to be attractive to a woman candidate, particularly if the morals of the legislature become an issue,” he said. “If that’s a big issue in statewide races, she could possibly capitalize.”

Also seeking the Democratic nomination for governor are former Gov. Roy Barnes, Attorney General Thurbert Baker, former adjutant general David Poythress and Mayor Carl Camon of Ray City in South Georgia.

Ryan Cassin, campaign manager for Cagle, said Thursday, “We welcome Carol Porter to the race and look forward to seeing her on the campaign trail. We anticipate a spirited contest and a thoughtful discussion of the issues.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.



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