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A heap of trouble for Deal
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As we say down South, Nathan Deal is in a heap of trouble, son.
There are serious questions about whether the Republican gubernatorial candidate’s potential bankruptcy will torpedo his campaign as we enter the final days of the campaign.
As reported, Deal is in a precarious situation at the moment. He owes a $2.3 million note that comes due in February 2011 – three months after the gubernatorial election and less than a month after the inauguration of a new governor. There are questions whether or not he has the ability to cover his commitments, although he swears he will.
The money he has lost was not spent on risky dot-com investments. Deal says he was supporting his kids. He tried to help his daughter and son-in-law fund a sporting goods company in Habersham County at the absolute worst time – just as the economy was beginning to sag.
What has happened to Nathan Deal has happened to a lot of people in the state and in the nation. Many investments made when the economy was white-hot have tanked and in the cool light of today’s financial environment look to have been poorly considered.
But now comes new information from the Associated Press that says Deal did not disclose two more active loans amounting to $2.85 million for his auto salvage business guaranteed by him and his partner Kenneth Cronan.
The AP said the loans from two banks were made in 2009 but do not appear on the financial disclosure statement which Deal filed with the State Ethics Commission after announcing his candidacy for governor. Deal was quoted as calling the matter an “oversight” and as saying he planned to correct his filings. ($2.8 million is an “oversight”?)
So, here’s the question: Do you want a man who is one navel from going belly-up to run a multi-billion dollar and highly dysfunctional business like the state of Georgia? If he can’t manage his own money, how comfortable are we that he can manage ours?
On the other hand, is some credit due to a man who loves his family so much that he would place his own personal investments on the line to help them? Sounds like a good family man, doesn’t he?
Now, let’s turn to the strategists in the camp of Democratic contender Roy Barnes. All is fair in love and war – and political campaigns – so Deal’s money problems are teed up and ready to be swatted.
What will Roy do with the information?
For months, the Barnes campaign has been hammering away at Deal and his ethical behavior in the Congress as well as his allegedly sweetheart deal with the state regarding his auto salvage business. Deal’s “oversight” in failing to make public $2.8 million in loans to his business is a rich opportunity to increase the pressure on the Republican.
But Barnes had better be careful before he begins to dance on Deal’s political grave.
The auto loans are fair game, but making political hay off of someone who is experiencing the bitterness of a bad investment made for the best of reasons – his family – may not play well with a lot of fair-minded Georgians, some of who may be sharing Deal’s pain themselves.
It is going to be up to the Barnes campaign to clearly separate the two issues – the car salvage business from a man trying to help his kids.
Deal looks at the moment like a guy who has caught a haymaker square on his jaw and is staggering to recover. He needs to try and get voters’ minds off his financial problems and onto major issues facing our state – like public education, jobs and transportation.
That will be a tough order.
All of this comes at the worst possible time for Nathan Deal. He has less than six weeks to assure us that he has his financial house – and business – in order. That is not a lot of time. Barnes has the opportunity to capture the votes of a lot of people who might not have voted for him otherwise because of their discomfort with Deal’s shaky money matters.
How the two candidates frame the issue of Deal’s financial problems in the waning weeks of the campaign will be the major factor in who will be elected our next governor.
Everything else is now secondary.

Yarbrough can be reached at or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Ga 31139.

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