GOP candidates march, and munch, for votes

Politics and pork -- and a little chicken, too -- followed the 17th annual Dacula Memorial Day Parade on Monday, and four GOP gubernatorial hopefuls threw in some rhetorical red meat.

Slotted amid cheerleaders, military veterans and the occasional random parade entrant, Republicans John Oxendine, Karen Handel, Nathan Deal and Eric Johnson shook hands and passed out stickers along Hebron Road in the growing Gwinnett County town. A dozen candidates for other offices were on hand, too, as the parade wound past historic store fronts. But the candidates saved the heavy politicking for a post-parade barbecue sponsored by the Gwinnett County GOP.

Only Republicans worked the parade in Dacula, but the Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls were largely active as well. Attorney General Thurbert Baker planned to attend a Memorial Day evening event at Stone Mountain and former Georgia National Guard Adjutant Gen. David Poythress crisscrossed wide swaths of south Georgia at event after event.

House Minority Leader DuBose Porter took his father, a World War II veteran, to an event on Sunday at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in his hometown of Dublin. Former Gov. Roy Barnes to paid his respects at Marietta National Ceremony.

As the Gwinnett GOP crowd gathered in the cafeteria of Dacula High School, where barbecue was trucked in from Williamson Bros. in Cobb County, Oxendine, the state's insurance commissioner, worked the crowd alone. But he admitted it was unlikely many people at the barbecue were undecided.

"All the uncommitted voters were at the parade," Oxendine said. "The folks that will be here have largely made up their mind. They've been engaged for months and months."

Oxendine seemed to have a point as hardly a soul in the cafeteria lacked a campaign sticker, whether in the gubernatorial race or for one of the many candidates there running for attorney general, Congress, insurance commissioner or any other down-ballot spot.

Not everybody fell in that box, however. Aaron Brinkman, 25, and Amanda Lomax, 26, both of Snellville, sported stickers for agriculture commissioner hopeful Gary Black but said they have yet to choose a candidate for governor.

"I'm hoping to get to know some of the candidates today," Brinkman said. "I tend to vote Republican and I typically agree with their positions. As far as deciding between the candidates, I'd like to see them speak and get some idea  of where they're coming from."

Lomax had the same desire. "I want a candidate who has had a leadership role. A lot of voters are voting straight party ticket and they don't get to know their positions."

But if Lomax and Brinkman were hoping for details from the candidates, they were likely disappointed Monday. Handel, Oxendine and Johnson gave largely biographical speeches with some choice talking points on issues. Lower taxes, new jobs, better schools -- all three hit the standard high points in their remarks. Handel promised reform of the state tax code. Oxendine called for the state to adopt the Fair Tax. Johnson promised lower tax rates.

Handel said she'll challenge the status quo.

"It is not about sponsoring legislation," she said. "It's not about voting ‘yes' or ‘no' on legislation and it's not about pithy one-liners. Governors must hang around to do the heavy lifting and deliver results on your behalf."

But all three also focused choice words on Barnes, the former Democratic governor who is the front-runner to be his party's nominee again this year.

"I don’t want to beat a dead horse," Johnson said. "I want to revive it and beat it again."