MACON - Dublin naive DuBose Porter is running his gubernatorial campaign in the same way he ran as the underdog candidate for the state House of Representatives in 1982: at the grass roots level.
The veteran lawmaker said he is meeting with as many people as possible across the state and that he's now the No. 2 contender among the Democratic throng headed into the July 20 primary, based he said, on the latest poll.
But former Gov. Ray Barnes is far ahead in all polls of Democratic contenders. Barnes also has amassed a campaign war chest that easily outmatches campaign contributions for Porter and other party candidates.
Nonetheless, Porter, 56, an attorney and newspaper owner, said he believes he can gain the momentum to outdistance Barnes and the other candidates when voters head to the polls.
"I'm running for governor the same way I've run 14 times in the Legislature," Porter said. "I'm going out and meeting people and building on a grass-roots level."
His message is simple.
Porter said he believes a strong economy fosters strong families. His key issues include education, water and transportation. Serving as governor, Porter noted, would allow him to wield the power needed to duplicate the successes he's had as a legislator in helping his hometown.
He pointed to Saxon Heights Elementary School in Dublin, a Title 1 school that now boasts top reading scores. That transformation from low to high reading levels was achieved, Porter said, after he was able to bring in a team of state Department of Education experts.
The team sat down with the teachers and asked them what was needed and three recommendations resulted: small class sizes, 100 percent parental involvement and support for technology. Porter noted that improving education is not about blaming teachers but giving them the tools they need.
"I know I can do this statewide but I need the power of the governor's office," Porter said. "My goal is to have every third grader reading on a third-grade level by the time they leave the third grade."
He said he would also like to see the development of partnerships between secondary schools for the benefit of 11th and 12th graders with technical and community colleges. He said studies indicate that graduations rates climb from 60 percent to more than 90 percent if students have the option of learning a skill.
On water, Porter said raising the level at Buford Dam at Lake Lanier by 2 feet would translate into 25 billion gallons of water conservation efforts. He said he also wants to implement a program to fix leaky pipes in the metro-Atlanta area, estimating that 25 percent of the treated water doesn't make it to the Chattahoochee River.
On transportation, Porter said he wants to bring commuter rail to Macon. He said such transportation projects could be funded by dedicating the fourth cent of the state fuel tax. Also, the resulting reliable funding source would open an avenue to seek federal tax dollars, he said.
A unique dynamic to Porter's gubernatorial run is the entrance of his wife, Carol, into the lieutenant governor's race — creating a husband-wife political ticket for the top two offices in the state. Meanwhile, the couple's four adult sons are serving in the campaigns: two with Carol Porter's campaign and two with DuBose Porter's campaign. The Porters have been married for 26 years.
DuBose Porter noted that his experience in Atlanta and his ties to Dublin make him the only candidate that can bridge the gap between metro-Atlanta and the rest of the state.
Porter has represented the 143rd District that includes part of Johnson and Laurens counties since he was first elected in 1982. Porter most recently served as the House minority leader, making him one of the top ranking Democrats in the state. He was elected speaker pro tempore of the House in 2003. Porter previously served as administration floor leader for Gov. Zell Miller from 1991 through 1992.
Porter credited former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn for first creating in him the desire to serve in public office during an internship with Nunn in Washington., D.C. between the time Porter earned his bachelor of arts degree in English from Davidson College and his law degree from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University.
After law school, Porter returned to Dublin to practice law — forming the law firm of Nelson and Porter.
He entered the newspaper industry in 1987 when he and Griffin Lovett purchased The Courier Herald, the daily newspaper in Dublin. In addition to the flagship newspaper, Porter and Lovett later purchased eight more newspapers.
"I've dedicated my life to making Laurens County something better," Porter said. "If I had the power of the governor's office, we could do something great."