A debate over uncollected taxes is roiling Georgia’s race for governor

The controversial sale of a salvage yard co-owned by Gov. Nathan Deal last year has become fresh fodder in the race for the state’s top job amid a new debate over how vigorously the state should pursue tax cheats.

Democrat Jason Carter’s campaign made clear it would put last year’s sale of the business to Texas-based Copart, which is in a tax dispute with the state, at the center of a new round of attacks this week. It came after Deal’s campaign criticized his plan to more aggressively pursue an estimated $2.5 billion pot of unpaid state taxes to fund education.

The back-and-forth plays into the larger debate that’s roiling the final months of the race for governor. Carter sees the sale as a chance to portray the governor as a politician who used his office to enrich himself. Deal’s campaign views the new attacks as a sign of an increasingly desperate rival grasping to gain traction as November nears.

The escalating war of words over tax cheats also highlights key differences between the candidates. Carter’s campaign is centered on a vow to increase funding for education, which he says has been short-shrifted by as much as $1 billion a year in Deal’s tenure. The governor, who offers more modest campaign promises, challenges Carter to outline specifics.

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