The gloves have come off when it comes to education in the Georgia gubernatorial battle as the camp of challenger John Carter declared on consecutive days that incumbent Governor Nathan Deal has "the worst education record of any governor in the history of this state."
The hammer was dropped by Carter's campaign manager Matt McGrath in a press release issued June 18 just after two new pro-Deal television commercials debuted criticizing Carter's own education record.
"Gov. Deal has the worst record on education in the history of this state," said Matt McGrath, campaign manager for Carter for Governor. "It's laughable that he thinks he can trick parents, teachers and students into believing his new-found interest in education funding is anything but an election year sham.
The next day,Carter had a new ad of his own, claiming that he will be the governor who "cares about education every year, not just election year."
Jason Carter is the grandson of former Georgia governor and US President Jimmy Carter, although the elder Carter's role in his relative's campaign thus far has been limited to a series of private fundraisers, according to an article by Christina A. Cassidy for The Associated Press.
When queried by a reporter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Carter campaign spokesman Bryan Thomas said the "worst record" statement was merely his campaign's opinion.
He made three points to us. They all deal with the austerity cuts to education that started under Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2003, increased to more than $1 billion a year in Perdue's final two years in office and have largely continued at that level under Deal. These cuts reflect the difference in what school systems qualify for and actually receive from the state under the education funding formula, the Quality Basic Education Act of 1985.
Deal's punch included records showing that the three budgets that Carter has criticized were also budgets that Carter voted in favor as a state Senator, according to an article by Jim Galloway of the Journal-Constitution.
The 71-year-old Deal went on to state that if he had wanted to make sway the state's educators to his side in the election, he could have easily done so, but chose not to.
"The conclusion is clear. It's a political statement on his part. And it's disingenuous to say I was the one who cut funding," Deal said. "If I really wanted to play politics on funding for education, you know exactly what would have happened â¦ the money would have gone into teacher pay raises."
The sparring match has started quite early considering the general election does not take place for another four months. Neither man had to break a sweat in the primaries, with Deal winning 72% of his party's vote and Carter running unopposed.
According to non-partisan website Real Clear Politics, Deal currently holds a slim 2 percentage point lead over Carter.