Originally created 11/05/06

Taylor's outlook is to find ways government can help

ATLANTA - During a Capitol news conference, Mark Taylor had read his scripted remarks and was simply addressing the dozen reporters who have covered him day-to-day for the eight years he's been lieutenant governor.

The purpose of the news conference in the waning days of his campaign obviously was to win votes, and the topic was an obscure provision in the Medicaid law called the Katie Beckett waiver that extends medical coverage to handicapped children from families whose incomes would otherwise disqualify them. Mr. Taylor was flanked by parents and children advocating a broadening of the waiver.

Recognizing the complicated nature of the discussion, he finally said, "Trust me. I've worked in the health-care arena for 20 years. I'm the person who brought PeachCare (health-care program) to Georgia. ... I know these areas. I feel like I understand this portion of the budget. I can assure you that this money is affordable."

Indeed, Mr. Taylor has been a player as lieutenant governor and senator in many of the state's major programs during his career. The PeachCare program, like Medicaid, taps into federal funds to provide medical coverage, in this case, for the children of poor families.

Mr. Taylor's signature issue in his campaign for governor is called PeachKids and would offer health coverage for every child in the state, regardless of income.

In his argument for extending the Katie Beckett waiver beyond the federal threshold, Mr. Taylor suggests that early treatment through the program could wind up being cheaper for the state than emergency care later or the loss of their productivity if the children can't be taught to overcome their handicaps.

Each of the children to be covered could one day grow up to be taxpayers, he said.

Mr. Taylor grew up in a political household with all of the material things any child could want. His father was a successful dealer of tractor-trailer trucks whose avocation was politics.

With the family lawyer, George Busbee, as governor and a farmer from two counties over, Jimmy Carter, as president, there were plenty of nearby role models.

Friends say Mr. Taylor was always interested in running for office, even as a child.

Mr. Taylor won election to the senate five times and then decided to run for lieutenant governor in 1998 when the seat became vacant. He fought a bitter campaign that required a runoff just to secure the nomination. Defeating a GOP opponent that year was simplified by the Republican's repeated campaign gaffs.

But the electorate was changing. Republicans were gaining ground, and Democrats were switching parties.

When Mr. Taylor was re-elected in 2002 as lieutenant governor, he overcame a GOP tide that swamped a U.S. senator, a governor, the speaker of the House and the senate majority leader.

Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said Mr. Taylor opted to remain in the Democratic party even as it was losing its conservatives.

"The center of gravity of the Democratic Party has drifted to the left," Dr. Bullock said. "Taylor has recognized that, and the types of positions he has advocated have reflected that. ... I think you will find him less conservative."

Mr. Taylor describes the metamorphosis in different terms.

He listened to the experts, he says, and learned that tax breaks and road paving alone weren't going to make the state more prosperous. Georgia's future depended on the quality of its work force, he concluded.

Since that change in orientation, he's focused on education and health care primarily. Or as he says, "investing in the human capital."


Mark Taylor

Party: Democrat

Residence: Albany

Age: 49

Political experience: Current Lt. Gov. and former state senator

Profession: Businessman

Education: Bachelor's degree from Emory University and a law degree from the University of Georgia

Family: Wife, Sacha, and one son, Fletcher


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