Originally created 11/21/02

Governor holds talks with rival

ATLANTA - Two weeks after an election that turned Georgia politics upside down, a defeated incumbent governor and a victorious governor-to-be met privately Wednesday to look to the state's future.

After 50 minutes, Gov.-elect Sonny Perdue emerged from the office that will be his on Jan. 13 and talked briefly to reporters. Retiring Gov. Roy Barnes, the last of an unbroken line of Democratic chief executives stretching back to Reconstruction, did not come out of the room.

"If all of Georgia could have been in that room this morning, I think they would have been proud," Mr. Perdue said. He described the talk as "very cordial, extremely friendly and cooperative."

He called Mr. Barnes "a real pro" and added: "Only those who have sat in that chair can know what it's like. He was very generous in his counsel and very kind in his advice and recommendations."

Mr. Perdue, 55, a former Democratic state legislator who switched to the GOP four years ago, defied the polls and the predictions of most analysts Nov. 5 when he was elected Georgia's first Republican governor since 1872.

He campaigned in part on a promise to allow voters to decide whether they want to keep the state flag, which Mr. Barnes changed last year to minimize the Confederate fighting symbol.

Mr. Perdue said the flag issue was not discussed, even though Mr. Barnes warned in interviews last week that a referendum such as Mr. Perdue promised "will tear this state apart."

The state's deteriorating economic condition was very much on the agenda, Mr. Perdue said.

"We talked about the opportunity in these times when our budgets are not what we'd like them to be for real structural reform," he said.

Mr. Barnes' administration warned last week that deeper cuts will be needed in the current budget and in next year's budget because of sluggish tax collections and, for the first time, said education will have to share the pain.

Asked if he believed the cuts would be felt by classroom teachers, Mr. Perdue said, "It's too early to get into the specifics of that. That's what we're doing right now. I've been in budget hearings all week. We're looking at where we can be more efficient and effective, but I can't address specific areas at this time."

As for his own feelings after walking for the first time into the executive office as governor-elect, Mr. Perdue said, "That is beginning to sink in. I'm going to work hard to make people feel like they're getting their money's worth."


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