Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Senate Hopefuls Hit Trail Running; Chambliss Prepares for 2-Sided Challenge to Conservative Ways

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Senate Hopefuls Hit Trail Running; Chambliss Prepares for 2-Sided Challenge to Conservative Ways

Article excerpt

Byline: WALTER C. JONES

ATLANTA - This year's Senate race gives voters three different choices.

Now that Democrats have nominated Jim Martin for the U.S. Senate in Tuesday's runoff, the ballot is set with him, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Libertarian Allen Buckley. The mudslinging began almost immediately, but there are many policy differences that separate them beyond their attacks.

Chambliss starts with the advantage of incumbency and the campaign contributions that usually attracts, and he's a conservative Republican in a state that hasn't elected a new Democrat statewide in a decade - or a Libertarian ever.

Martin and Buckley will try to chip away at those advantages, notes Kerwin Swint, political science professor at Kennesaw State University, and Chambliss will try to pre-empt their attacks.

"I think it's going to be pretty rough," Swint said. "Chambliss may be following a script written for [John] McCain, which is to paint your opponent as out of touch and to put him in a box early. ... I think both sides are going to be willing to engage this year."

Swint predicted that jobs, the price of gasoline, the housing crisis and other aspects of the economy would be the main issue for most voters this year.

To capitalize on it, Martin began hammering the incumbent on federal spending, trying to weaken his image as a conservative.

"But with gas prices so high, good jobs [are] harder to come by, and all of us [are] being hurt by this failed economy," Martin said Wednesday. "I will not let Saxby Chambliss stand in the way anymore and continue to push the failed economic policies of the Bush administration."

Fiscal matters are areas of disagreement Buckley has with both major-party candidates.

"Jim's a nice guy. It's just he tends to want to give people things," Buckley said, noting Martin's comment that someone needs to go to Washington to stand up for the middle class and health care for children. "My approach is that the government should create an environment where they should be taking care of themselves. …

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