State Sen. Jason Carter, who officially qualified Wednesday to challenge Gov. Nathan Deal, said the White House's decision not to include funding to dredge the Port of Savannah in its budget was the result of a "stick in the eye" approach to powerful Democrats by state GOP leaders.
The news that the White House wouldn't fund the dredging of the Savannah port -- the state's biggest economic development priority -- complicated Carter's official debut. Flanked by former Ambassador Andrew Young and businessman Michael Coles, the Atlanta Democrat said he was "disappointed" the port project won't move forward. Said Carter:
"But the way I look at it is you have a governor who has played Washington politics at every opportunity, and tried to put a stick in the eye of the administration. And that type of attitude doesn't help us move forward as a state."
Carter said a more straightforward bipartisan approach help save the project, though he said he's confident that U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and other GOP leaders are giving White House officials the hard press. When asked specifically whether the "stick in the eye" approach may have turned off White House officials, Carter had this to say:
"We have seen consistently over the last three years the governor putting Washington politics first and solving problems in Georgia second. And that clearly contributed to what happened. Absolutely."
Deal, who pledged to go ahead with the harbor deepening despite the stumbling block, had a snarky response when caught later Wednesday:
"Surely to goodness, someone who wants to be governor of this state wouldn't say the head of his own party is stooping to partisan politics on an issue that is so important to the economy of the entire state of Georgia. I am shocked that he would say such a thing."
Michelle Nunn, a Democrat expected to formally join the race for U.S. Senate on Thursday, also got caught up in the ports furor.
This morning, she called on President Barack Obama to move on the deepening. And in answer to U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston’s question, yes, she she says she raised the topic with Joe Biden:
"During my visit with the Vice President, I talked to him about the importance of the Port of Savannah expansion project and shared my disappointment that the administration was not allowing the project to move forward. It's the latest example of how Washington isn't working. Everyone across the political spectrum agrees this is critical for job creation and our long-term economic growth.
“But at the last hour, government bureaucracy in Washington and red tape have stalled the project from getting off the ground. That's the kind of inefficiency and obstructionism that we need to get rid of in Washington. The President should immediately allow the Corps of Engineers to move forward with the deepening of the port, and if not, Congress should pass a law to start the project."
Republicans, meanwhile, continued to put their annoyance with the White House on full display – down to House Speaker David Ralston, who stepped to the well just a few minutes ago. Said Ralston:
“I’m frustrated…Georgians have stood together in support of this project, which is the most significant economic development project in this state in generations – a project that will not only transform Chatham County and southeast Georgia, but all of Georgia….
“We have waited. We have obtained every permit. We’ve passed every test. We’ve jumped every hurdle. And we have kept our end of the partnership. For the past 16 year, this state has included every year in our budget, including the budget that was passed out of this House a few weeks ago, funding – even during the tough times – to keep our word, to be a good partner.
“Two hundred and sixty-six point one million dollars in state funds. And yesterday, the administration in Washington proposed not construction money, but pre-construction of one point fifty-two million dollars. That’s why I’m frustrated.”
Ralston commended Gov. Nathan Deal, U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for their efforts.
The House speaker also expressed full support of Deal’s announcement that he would proceed with the dredging without federal cash.
But he had this to say about Joe Biden:
“We do things different here than they do in Washington. I think we found out yesterday that when we say things here, that we mean things different than they do in Washington.
“Because we found out yesterday that ‘come hell or high water’ means about the same thing as ‘if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.’”