Karen Handel knows her football. Georgia's former Secretary of State-turned candidate for governor is as conversant on the spread offense and cover-two defenses as any of the ex-jock phony "analysts" on ESPN. It's just one reason the repeated fumbles by Handel and her campaign on the issue of her membership in the Log Cabin Republicans are startling.
First of all, I know what some are thinking - what's wrong with Log Cabin? That's some dang good syrup! Why, I used to have Log Cabin on my Momma's pancakes every week, and now they make a syrup that has no high fructose corn syrup. Yes, wrong Log Cabin, though the group does take it's name from the structure in which the 16th President was born.
The Log Cabin Republicans are, for the most part, just as conservative as Rush Limbaugh. They also are, for the most part, gay men and lesbian women, though Log Cabin membership is not exclusive to homosexuals. Enter Ms. Handel, circa 2002 during her campaign for the Fulton County Commission. She sought and received the endorsement of the Log Cabins that year and again the following year while seeking the commission's chairmanship. You don't have to have the brain of Stephen Hawking to understand the reasons why. The gay community in the Atlanta area, both Republican and Democrat, is very active, and as the cliche goes, every vote counts. Marc Yeager, the president of Georgia's Log Cabins during those years, also says Ms. Handel was a dues-paying Log Cabin member at the time. Big deal, you say? It is if your name is Deal and you are trying to turn attention away from your own shady deals.
Nathan Deal, like Ms. Handel, is seeking the Republican nomination for governor this year and had to be wondering how in the world he was being out-polled by Ms. Handel and Georgia's insurance commissioner John Oxendine. He had been in Washington, WASHINGTON for crying out loud, for almost two decades with a perfect 100 rating from the American Conservative Union. How could Georgia Republicans be supporting anyone but this good-ole-boy in a state that has loved good-ole-boys in both parties since Reconstruction ended? Something had to be done. He could take out Ox in a runoff, but Deal needed to take out Ms. Handel to get to the runoff, and he found the issue with which he thought he could get her - ladies and gentlemen, Karen Handel used to hang out with, GASP, gay people!
This shouldn't be an issue, and if the election were being held 10 or 20 years from now it most definitely wouldn't be, not even in a Republican primary in Georgia. Such is the nature of the rapidly changing consensus about gay people, particularly among the next generation. A recent survey from Columbia University showed that if folks between the ages of 18 and 29 were the only ones who voted, gay marriage would be legal in 38 states. But Nathan Deal is banking the future of his campaign on it still being a big deal to enough conservatives in 2010 that they will not pull the lever for Ms. Handel. It doubt it will hurt her, but Ms. Handel could have put Mr. Deal in his place a long time ago. Instead, for whatever reason, she and her campaign have chosen to be just as deceptive on the Log Cabins as Mr. Deal has been in discussing his ethics while a Member of Congress.
When Mr. Deal first brought up whether Ms. Handel was once a Log Cabin member, the correct answer should have been the Phineas And Ferb answer, "Yes, yes I was." If Deal had said, "so, you like hanging out with gay people", Handel could have replied, "Yes, just as much as you like those no-bid contracts your salvage business used to receive from the state, the no-bid contracts you lobbied the state to continue providing while you were in Congress." Instead, Ms. Handel and her campaign have decided to ignore the exploding e-mail trail of evidence and deny any past connections to the Log Cabins.
One didn't need the e-mail evidence to know the Handel campaign was flat-out lying. It became evident when her spokesman, Dan McLagan, uttered the typical politician response - Ms. Handel "doesn't remember ever having been a member." If Ms. Handel truly remembered the atypical political background from which she came - leaving an abusive home when she was 17, never graduating college, working her way up in a political world that still isn't very nice to women, she would have fired McLagan for sounding like every other shady political character with something to hide. Instead, she echoed Mr. McLagan with her own conditional denial during yesterday's debate at Atlanta's Fox 5-TV - the Log Cabins' "official records" show she wasn't a member.
Perhaps the same political hack who told former state senator Eric Johnson that people wouldn't vote for goatees told Ms. Handel that most Georgia Republicans still think being friends with gay people is akin to rooting for Notre Dame during football season. Even if Ms. Handel comes correct and owns up to what appears to be the truth, Mr. Deal has hurt her credibility, even though he was attempting to do something else by playing the hate card. Should Ms. Handel win the Republican nomination, her multiple fumbles on the chance to tell the truth about her history with the Log Cabins will be exploited, as they should be, by Democrat ex-governor Roy Barnes during the general election campaign. In what could be a bad year for most Democrats around the country, it is mind boggling that a football nut like Karen Handel would keep running the toss-sweep to the right on the Log Cabin question even though she is losing yardage every time.