Georgians Explain the Anti-Barnes Tide; Redistricting, State Flag Cited

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson, Times-Union staff writer

Political experts are citing redistricting, education and the altered state flag for Roy Barnes becoming the first Democrat to lose a gubernatorial election in 130 years in Georgia.

Every voter had his own reason, however, from the obvious to the obscure.

"I'm glad he's gone," St. Marys hairdresser Debby Carter said. "Personally, I don't think they should have changed that flag."

Her deeper reasons lie just up Osborne Road at the idle Durango-Georgia Paper Co. Her husband is one of 900 workers who are losing their jobs with next week's closing of the mill. If creditors force the company into bankruptcy, her husband may not collect two weeks' severance pay, she said.

"We were banking on that for Christmas," she said as she colored Cricket Barton's hair.

Barnes visited St. Marys recently with a promise of state funds for a study on retooling the outdated mill in hopes of returning it to production. The governor talked about saving jobs, but Barton said Barnes was more interested in saving his political career.

"Personally, I think he came down here to be seen and get votes," she said. "It didn't work."

Sonny Perdue got Barton's vote because he is a Republican. The wife of a retired sailor, the 57-year-old Barton said she votes for Republicans because they're more appreciative of the military, even in peacetime.

Rube Nelson, a Jasper resident traveling to Fernandina Beach, said he voted for Barnes four years ago but backed Perdue in Tuesday's general election. The change resulted from his overall perception of Barnes and not a single issue, Nelson said.

"It was really too much politics," Nelson said. "He did more talk than he did work."

The reduction of the Confederate battle emblem in the state flag was the deciding issue for many men because it showed them Barnes didn't care what the public wanted, several said.

Construction workers Chris Gross, 40, and Steve Martin, 37, dug into plates of grits, sausage and eggs at Salvador's Restaurant in Brunswick during a morning break. Having started work two hours earlier, the men said the meal would probably have to last until supper and maybe beyond.

Both expressed resentment about the flag change.

"I think they went about it the wrong way. I think he realized that [Wednesday] morning when he got up," Gross said of the defeated governor.

Neither man expressed any real affection for the old flag, but both said they just wanted to be heard.

"Barnes just said, 'It's time for a change. I'm going to do it,' " Martin said.

Sitting a few tables away, boat captain W.A. Hamby took Perdue at his word on the flag issue.

"We're going to get to vote on a better flag. We're not going to get the old one back, but anything'll beat what we got," he said.

Hamby said he regretted his vote for Barnes in 1998. …