Political Insider

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Georgia Democrats rip Athens candidate for ‘disqualifying’ comments

The sole Republican running for a conservative-leaning Athens-based House district is facing criticism from Democrats for comments he made to a reporter who pressed him on his perspective in the race.

“It’s obvious by just looking at us that we have a different perspective,” Houston Gaines told the Flagpole reporter.

Gaines, a white former University of Georgia student body president, faces Democratic attorney Deborah Gonzalez, who is Hispanic, in the Nov. 7 race.

Michael Smith of the Democratic Party of Georgia called his remarks “disgraceful and disqualifying” and compared it to “racist filth.” He added: “Character counts, and Houston Gaines is found wanting.”

Gaines spokesman Brian Robinson said the candidate was referring to himself as “the voice of a new generation of leaders” He called it “just one more ridiculous and inane example of Democrats resorting to identity politics.”

Gaines' campaign provided audio of Gonzales on a local radio station with her own racially-charged remarks.

"I know that they say he's a nice guy and that he's a different candidate," she said in the WUOG radio interview. "But when I look at Houston Gaines, I see white. Male. Very wealthy. Supported by special interest groups."

The seat was vacated by Republican Regina Quick after she was tapped to a judgeship. And although Athens is a liberal bastion, the district is so conservative that Quick has never faced a general election opponent since she won her party’s nomination in 2012.

That’s because it encompasses about half of Athens but stretches east to include ruby-red territory in nearby rural counties. Still, Democrats see an opening: Trump only won the territory by about 3 points.

Gaines, meanwhile, has split some local Democrats with his candidacy. Athens Mayor Nancy Denson was ousted from the local Democratic party after she held a fundraiser for Gaines, who was her campaign manager, in a strained test of bipartisanship in a deep-blue stronghold.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.