ATLANTA—Facing a barrage of news exposing his failures as leader and a trial exposing his meddling with an ethics investigation of his campaign, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is having a bad week.
The Deal Ethics Trial
Deal caught a break early in the week when his lawyers successfully suppressed a subpoena for him to testify in the ethics trial. But that luck quickly dried up, after witness after witness implicated Deal and his staff in a coordinated effort to stymie an ethics inquiry into his campaign’s improper activities.
Even Deal’s ally, former Ethics Commission Chairman Patrick Millsaps, admitted under oath that actions by the governor’s office to replace the lead investigators on the commission “doesn’t pass the smell test.”
“Gov. Deal may have ducked having to testify, but he’s still the elephant in the courtroom,” said DuBose Porter, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia.
Witnesses in the trial have testified that the commission’s two senior staff were forced out the door after initiating investigations of the Deal campaign. Deal’s office hand-picked a new director who quickly ended the investigation, witnesses say.
More Bad News at Every Turn
Deal was caught flat-footed after failing to advance key legislative issues that he suddenly found out were important to Georgia voters.
Under pressure for failing to push forward a measure to allow medical marijuana for children suffering from severe seizure disorders, Deal announced he would seek executive action on the issue. But that effort was dealt a blow by former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears, who told WABE that the governor would be overstepping his authority. “[T]his kind of thing would be invading the province of the legislature, and I don’t think the executive can do that,” Ward Sears said.
Deal woke up on Saturday to a headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealing the state is wasting millions of dollars each year in food stamps overpayments. The huge waste comes to light during a mismanagement crisis where there is a 30,000 person backlog and thousands of calls are going unanswered at the agency responsible for administering food stamps. “This is a very dramatic wrong turn,” said an expert in Georgia’s food stamp system about the waste, which amounted to $138 million last year. “It’s unusual to see a state deteriorate this far this fast.” The mismanagement has put $76 million in federal funding at risk.
Deal’s week wasn’t much better outside of Atlanta. His knee-jerk response Savannah Harbor deepening project setback has landed him in hot water, with reality colliding with Deal’s rhetoric. Deal’s actions “could saddle the state with poisoned property and thorny legal problems,” the AJC reports.
Deal had already started the week down, in the aftermath of a poll showing that four in ten likely Republican voters won’t commit to voting for Deal in the GOP primary, where he faces two challengers.
Then WSB-TV released a new poll showing Deal neck and neck with his challenger, State Sen. Jason Carter. That puts him in what is traditionally a dangerous zone for incumbents, and demonstrates Georgia voters’ remarkable lack of confidence in Deal’s ability to address the state’s challenges. Deal has some of the lowest approval ratings for any incumbent governor facing reelection in the nation.