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Perdue gets personal in second debate

Gubernatorial candidates spar in nasty exchange

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ATLANTA - Gov. Sonny Perdue took a personal swipe at Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor's in the candidates' second gubernatorial debate Sunday night questioning the Democrat's use of drugs and alcohol around his son.

After the debate, Taylor called Perdue's suggestion that he had used drugs in front of his son, Fletcher, "a total lie."

Perdue, a Republican, let loose after facing repeated allegations from Taylor about his land transactions and a tax cut law he signed that he ultimately benefited from.

"I was hoping I wouldn't have to use this," Perdue said, responding to a question about how to combat illegal drugs in Georgia among children.

"It's really about good parenting. It's about being a good model for your children and not using drugs in front of them," Perdue said. "Not driving when your young infant son is in the car. That's what protecting our kids from drugs is really about, Lt. Gov. Taylor."

Taylor has admitted that he drank a beer while behind the wheel with his young son, Fletcher nearly two decades ago. While Taylor has acknowledged he used cocaine and marijuana when he was younger he has said he had stopped before his son was born.

Perdue did not mention Taylor's son involvement in a fatal car wreck last year that left his best friend dead. But Taylor accused him of doing so.

"That is really, really sad that you would bring up my son's traffic car accident," Taylor said. Fletcher Taylor, 23, has been indicted for felony drunk driving in the crash and has been in alcohol rehabilitation. The topic has been left untouched in the campaign until Sunday night.

Speaking to reporters after the debate Perdue appeared to step back slightly from the Taylor drug allegation. Perdue said at first that Taylor "used illegal drugs in his home while the children were there."

Pressed further he then said he may have misstated the timing.

"I don't know whether it was before his son was born or afterward," Perdue said.

But Perdue continued to press the point that Taylor had consumed alcohol with his son in the car.

Perdue's own campaign manager, Nick Ayers, was arrested on Wednesday night for driving under the influence of alcohol. After the debate Perdue acknowledged that "doesn't send a good message."

"He didn't have a child in the car with him," Perdue said. "That's unconscionable."

The sharp attack from Perdue with just over a week to go before the Nov. 7 general election marks a departure from his role on the defensive over his Florida land deal and questions about a bill he signed which saved him about $100,000 in state capital gains taxes. On Sunday night he also faced questions about failing to disclose his purchase of land near a pristine wildlife refuge in Houston County. The state declined to purchase the Oaky Woods preserve when it was put up for sale and it is being developed instead. The value on Perdue's adjacent property has soared.

Perdue on Sunday night said he done nothing improper.

"These are wild allegations from a very desperate candidate," Perdue said. "I'm not sure why he hates me so much."

Taylor continued to hammer away at an allegation that he has been making throughout the campaign: that Perdue is using his office to get rich.

"On my worst day as governor of Georgia I will not misuse the office for personal gain," Taylor said.

Libertarian candidate Garrett Michael Hayes shared the stage with Taylor and Perdue and played the straight man as the accusations became more bitter.

At one point when the candidates were asked whether they would place their`assets in a blind trust Hayes quipped that he would be happy to if he could find a financial institution that would handle an account that small.

While personal accusations between Perdue and Taylor created the evening's fireworks, the debate centered largely on issues from education to immigration.

The two differed over education funding with Perdue stressing that education funding had grown under his watch and Taylor claiming that schools were suffering through cuts.

The candidates are scheduled to spar in a third and final debate next Sunday.

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