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Deal asks GOP superstars to moderate debate
Gubernatorial candidate requests Palin, Romney
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Aug. 10 runoff races

Republican

Governor: Nathan Deal, Karen Handel
Attorney general: Sam Olens, Preston Smith
Insurance commissioner: Ralph T. Hudgens, Maria Sheffield
Public Service Commission, District 2: Tim Echols, John Douglas
U.S. House of Representatives, 9th District: Tom Graves, Lee Hawkins
Hall County Board of Commissioners Post 1: Bobby Banks (I), Craig Lutz
Dawson County clerk of courts: Justin Power, Gaye Cantrell

Democrat

Secretary of state: Gail Buckner, Georganna Sinkfield

Nathan Deal seems to be answering his Republican opponents’s campaign dare to “bring it on.”

On Thursday, Deal called on two conservative superstars to come to the state and moderate debates between him and former Secretary of State Karen Handel.

The two Republicans will go head-to-head in an Aug. 10 runoff election for the Republican nomination in Georgia’s governor’s race.

Handel, who is aiming to be the state’s first female governor, has received the conservative blessing of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

And Deal, on Thursday, invited the two to come to Georgia and moderate two debates per week from now until the runoff, offering to coordinate with newspapers and television networks throughout the state.

Neither Palin nor Romney responded to calls seeking comment from The Times Thursday.

But a spokesman for Handel’s campaign called Deal’s invitation a “bizarre campaign gimmick.”

“I’m pretty sure that Gov. Palin and Gov. Romney don’t even know what a Nathan Deal is,” said Handel spokesman Dan McLagan.

But Deal’s director of communications Brian Robinson, called the invitation a “good faith” effort to raise voter interest in the runoff and for Palin and Romney to meet the people of Georgia.

“You cannot have a message, make your slogan ‘bring it on!’ and then run and hide from debates,” Robinson said.

The Deal campaign had not formally contacted Palin or Romney about the invitation, but Robinson said the campaign would be happy to send invitations on “gold embossed stationary.”

“They have decided to get involved in the Georgia governor’s race,” Robinson said. “They decided that they wanted to take an interest. We believe that an informed conservative voter is going to choose Nathan, so this is our chance to also inform these candidates who have gotten involved.”

The debates, Robinson said, would allow for a side-by-side comparison of Deal and Handel.

However, McLagan said Handel had already agreed to several debates with Deal between now and Aug. 10 that would be moderated by local journalists.

“If (Arizona) Gov. (Jan) Brewer and Gov. Palin were truly to come to town and spend the entirety of the runoff with Karen, Congressman Deal would likely not get more than seven votes in the runoff,” McLagan said.

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