SAVANNAH - Georgia school Superintendent Linda Schrenko assaulted Gov. Roy Barnes' education reform plan Friday, mocking his approach as "Roy-form" and predicting voters will punish Democratic lawmakers for passing the bill.
"This Roy-form is just another Democratic tax-and-spend program designed to build an empire in state government," she told 428 delegates and 127 alternates on the opening day of the annual state GOP convention at the International Trade & Convention Center.
Mr. Barnes wasn't the only Democrat to take some lumps as the two-day convention kicked off Friday afternoon. The targets were big and small, from President Clinton and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore to Republican-turned-Democrat Randy Sauder, the state representative who switched parties just before last month's qualifying deadline, leaving the GOP without a candidate in his Cobb County district.
Mrs. Schrenko, in her second term as the state's education chief, sounded like a potential challenger to Mr. Barnes' anticipated re-election bid in 2002. But after the speech, the Republican from Columbia County said she's not considering running for governor.
"I'm going to run for state school superintendent," she said. "I'm just going to try to make it a meaningful office and get rid of these five, six, seven new agencies that he's created that are draining money away from classrooms."
Ms. Schrenko charged that the Office of Education Accountability created by the education reform legislation, answerable to the governor rather than her Department of Education, will rob her of authority, thus reducing the power of a statewide official elected by Georgia voters.
"I have nothing against grading schools," she said. "But I want him to know the people are going to grade him ... and grade (Democratic) members of the General Assembly this fall. And that grade's going to be an F, which stands for `farewell.'"
But Barnes spokesman Howard Mead said Mrs. Schrenko's vitriol against the governor is motivated by resentment.
"It's unfortunate that Superintendent Schrenko lets her personal feelings get in the way of doing the right thing for the children of Georgia," Mr. Mead said.
Mrs. Schrenko was joined on the platform Friday by another self-styled Barnes "whipping boy," state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine. He's been smarting since the governor pushed through legislation last year creating an independent insurance advocate's office to oversee rate cases.
"The Democratic leadership of Georgia is scared because when free Georgians get to choose the leaders they want, they pick pro-business, pro-family conservatives," he said.
Ellis Cook, mayor pro tem of the Savannah City Council, fired the first salvo Friday, aimed at Mr. Clinton, the second American president to be impeached by the U.S. House.
"It is time to bring respect, honor and dignity back to the White House," he said during brief remarks.
It was congressional hopeful Dylan Glenn of Albany who took a potshot at Mr. Gore.
"He can't decide if he created the Internet or whether Bill Clinton is a moral leader," said Mr. Glenn, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany. "He's also confused about his visit to a Buddhist temple," a reference to a fund-raiser Mr. Gore attended in 1996 in Southern California while claiming he didn't know money was changing hands.
But while the Republicans were slamming Democrats, they were also showcasing their own.
Mr. Glenn shared the stage with Sunny Warren, who is opposing Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Lithonia. Both challengers are among the growing number of black Americans seeking elective office as Republicans.
Georgia House Minority Leader Bob Irvin, R-Atlanta, and his Senate counterpart, Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, talked up their respective slates for the November election.
Mr. Johnson urged the delegates to hit the pavement to push for the election of a Republican majority in the Senate. Otherwise, he said, Democrats will continue to kill tax cuts, ethics reforms and GOP-backed education reforms such as toughening school discipline and ending social promotion.
"They blamed the teachers, parents and voters for bad schools instead of accepting responsibility for the failures of a system they created," he said.
The convention concludes today with presentations from Georgia's Republican congressional delegation, including senior U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush, who was invited to the convention but declined because of a family commitment, will appear via video.
The guest speaker will be Alan Keyes, the only GOP presidential hopeful other than Mr. Bush who hasn't formally dropped out of the race.
Reach Dave Williams at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.