Originally created 08/05/98

Debate reflects campaign



ATLANTA -- Voters statewide got a taste Tuesday night of what the runoff campaigns for lieutenant governor have been -- bitter.

Candidates for the GOP and Democratic nominations squared off in a statewide broadcast on Georgia Public Television. Separate, half-hour debates for each party were held back to back. Winners of each runoff Aug. 11 will face each other in the November general election.

Republicans have a choice between Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis and former state Sen. Clint Day. Democrats running are state Sens. Mary Margaret Oliver and Mark Taylor.

All the candidates wasted no time attacking each other.

Ms. Oliver made Mr. Taylor's wealth, his family's money and the family trucking business the centerpiece of her offense.

"Of you and your family and the 30 to 40 businesses they control, how much have they contributed to date to buy the lieutenant governor's race?" Ms. Oliver asked Mr. Taylor.

"I am tired of the personal attacks -- on me and my family -- of which you are the supreme leader of," Mr. Taylor told Ms. Oliver. Mr. Taylor has raised over a $1 million and personally loaned his campaign $200,000. He said family members have contributed the maximum $5,000 each as has one family business.

Mr. Taylor said Ms. Oliver had voted against raising the age of consent for sex to 16 and that Ms. Oliver opposed allowing families of victims to testify in trials about the impact of the crime.

Ms. Oliver, an attorney, defended her record, saying that in more recent legislation she voted to increase the consent age to 16 and that victim-impact statements can offer more avenues of appeal for criminals sentenced to death.

"The death penalty must be protected," she said.

The GOP debate continued much in the same fashion as the runoff campaign.

When the format allowed candidates to question each other, Mr. Day used every opportunity to slam Mr. Skandalakis for making trips funded by campaign contributions to Las Vegas where he met with casino officials but said he was on personal business. He also charged that Mr. Skandalakis was weak on matters close to the heart of the Christian Right.

"He sought to bring casino gambling to Georgia ... he waffles on abortion ... he stands by while his county distributes condoms to school children," Mr. Day said.

Mr. Skandalakis did not respond to the attack. Instead, he grilled Mr. Day on his senate record -- filled with local legislation and symbolic resolutions -- and suggested Mr. Day did not have the political stamina to run the senate as the lieutenant governor's job requires.

"Mr. Day is unfit to serve," Mr. Skandalakis said.

When asked about ending affirmative action programs, an issue in the 1998 General Assembly, Mr. Skandalakis said he wanted them eliminated.

"Fulton County has paid out more suits because of reverse discrimination. We should not have affirmative action. It promotes discrimination," he said.

Both campaigns have been marked by their nasty tenors.

Mr. Day has portrayed Mr. Skandalakis as having strong ties to casino gambling, unpalatable to GOP voters looking for a social conservative. Mr. Skandalakis has broadcast Day's now-paid tax liens in a deluge of TV ads.

Mr. Taylor has accused Ms. Oliver repeatedly of being "soft on crime," while she has pointed out his previous cocaine use, admitted in a deposition during a custody case.