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Georgia’s race for governor nears end — or not

Runoff a long-shot possibility

    ATLANTA — Georgia may have finally heard the last of those repetitive campaign ads declaring what ‘‘Sonny did’’ or promoting ‘‘the big guy looking out of the lil’ guy.’’
    Or maybe not.
    Voters will decide Tuesday who should be governor for the next four years — Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, Democrat Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor or Libertarian Garrett Michael Hayes.
    While polls have shown Perdue with a commanding lead, some hint at the possibility of a Dec. 5 runoff. That would hinge on whether Hayes and Taylor can attract enough support to deprive Perdue of at least 50 percent of the total vote.
    A runoff between Perdue and Taylor would certainly draw national money and attention to the race. Taylor has been outspent by more than $2 million after using much of his money on the nasty Democratic primary in July, when he outlasted Secretary of State Cathy Cox after repeated attacks ads.
    ‘‘The Big Guy,’’ as he calls himself by playing up his 300-pound frame, has tried to gain traction by accusing the governor of consistently cutting school funding and health care money and using his office to grow his personal wealth.
    ‘‘He made more money in four years as Governor Perdue than he made in 54 years as Sonny Perdue,’’ Taylor said Sunday night in the third and final debate between the candidates.
    In particular, Taylor has pounded Perdue for signing a tax law that that ultimately allowed Perdue to avoid paying $100,000 in state taxes, and also for failing to have the state purchase a nature preserve near his home in Houston County.
    The governor has disputed those claims, calling them ‘‘wild allegations’’ from a desperate challenger.
    Perdue, who surprisingly defeated Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes in 2002 and led the Republican takeover of the statehouse, faced only token opposition in the July primary, allowing him to save and spend the state’s largest campaign warchest — most recently counted at $13.6 million — on the general election.
    He has trumpeted job growth and a healthy state budget, as well as a new Kia Motor Co. plant set to open in Troup County near the Alabama border. And he vows to scrap the tax on retirement income for those age 65 and over.
    In ads that have saturated the airwaves, former Democratic Gov. Zell Miller has boasted of what ‘‘Sonny did’’ and the governor and his wife have encouraged Georgians to contribute to a ‘‘Sonny do’’ list if he’s elected to a second term.
    Taylor has made health care a centerpiece of his campaign, vowing to provide low-cost health insurance for children whose parents make too much to qualify for state programs but not enough to afford private insurance. And he’s sought to show he’s tough on crime by pledging to build more prisons, supporting a constitutional amendment to end parole for violent felons and pushing for the death penalty for repeat violent child molesters.
    ———
    On The Net:
    Gov. Sonny Perdue: www.votesonny.com
    Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor: www.marktaylor.com

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