ATLANTA - A last-minute mailing blitz accusing a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of being responsible for the deaths of 72 children and supporting efforts to weaken sexual-assault laws are raising questions about what is fair game in a political campaign.
While former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed and Sen. Casey Cagle, R-Oakwood, have waged a fierce battle for the GOP nomination for several months, the five-way race for the Democratic nod had seen only tepid criticism traded.
But a pair of mail pieces that began circulating this week changed that, with former Sen. Greg Hecht of Jonesboro assailing former Human Resources Commissioner Jim Martin for his efforts at the state's welfare agency and his time in the Legislature.
The first mailer to surface attacked Mr. Martin for the deaths of six dozen children during his time as head of the Department of Human Resources. That agency oversees the Division of Family and Children Services, which is responsible for investigating child abuse.
"Seventy-two children died in state custody," the piece says, with the picture of a gloomy child in the middle of the front page, "when Jim Martin was the head of Georgia's DFCS ..."
"Why should we trust Jim to protect our kids now?" the piece continues on the back.
Billy Horton, Mr. Hecht's campaign manager, defended the mailing as a legitimate criticism of Mr. Martin's record.
"These deaths of these children happened while Jim Martin was supposed to be taking care of them," he said. "I don't know how he can sleep at night, much less run for lieutenant governor."
But the Martin campaign said the ad is an outrage that crosses the line between fair and foul.
"Every child's life is precious, and for Greg Hecht to attempt to score political points off the deaths of children is wrong," said Will Martin, a spokesman for Jim Martin. "I think it reflects upon the desperation that's engulfed the Hecht campaign."