Transportation tax e-mail: Arm twisting or misunderstanding?

7:21 AM, Jun 19, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Coming up on July 31st, Georgia voters will decide whether to pay another penny of sales tax for a series of regional transportation projects.

Called T-SPLOST, the issue has already generated a lot of heat and accusations of underhanded tactics on both sides.

Temperatures rose again Monday when some opponents accused a major support group of using Governor Nathan Deal's name to strong-arm local politicians into supporting the tax.

"The pro T-SPLOST supporters have been running a deceptive campaign from the beginning; this just drives the point home," claimed Atlanta Tea Party activist Debbie Dooley, a staunch opponent.

Dooley circulated an e-mail from Lowndes County Republican Party Chairman Nolen Cox, blasting what he called "an unprecedented offer for a governor's involvement in local elections."

As proof, Cox included an e-mail from Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson to his mayor and city council that said:

"Governor Deal has requested a list of all elected officials who support T-SPLOST. He is willing to make a commitment to campaign for the reelection of any local elected official who will publicly support T-SPLOST. How should I respond? If each of you could respond to me I would appreciate it and I will merely pass it along. I want to be sure I say this was presented in no way as a threat or a negative, just as a commitment to help and support those who support T-SPLOST. Lt. Governor Cagle is also coming to town for a fund-raiser for T-SPLOST soon. Both of those are vocal supporters and advocates for T-SPLOST. Thanks, Larry."

In a phone call with 11Alive News, Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson confirmed the contents of his email.

He said it was prompted by what he called a "third party" phone call on behalf of Connect Georgia, a Chamber of Commerce backed group supporting the T-SPLOST.

But a spokesperson for Marietta-based Connect Georgia called it a misunderstanding.

Cindy Miller told 11Alive News the call was simply part of a statewide effort to find out where local officials stand on the issue.

She said Gov. Deal has nothing to do with it.

"The Connect Georgia campaign has not had any conversations with the Governor's Office about who supports and who does not support the T-SPLOST campaign," Miller said.

A spokesman for Gov. Deal's office also told 11Alive News that Deal has no involvement in the Connect Georgia effort and has not promised political support to any T-SPLOST backers.

Gov.Deal's office also said it informed Lowndes County GOP Chairman Nolen Cox last week that they had no involvement in the survey.

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