GA Governor candidates talk tourism in Savannah

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Candidates for Georgia governor were in Savannah on Wednesday morning to talk tourism.

Democrat Roy Barnes and Republican Nathan Deal were expected to face off in their first one-on-one meeting since Deal won the Republican runoff last week.

However, there was no debate, but they did talk tourism. Each candidate sat down with WTOC's Sonny Dixon, who moderated the event.

Separately, each answers a number of tourism related questions.

The candidates touched on several issues, from Sunday sales of alcohol to hotel and motel taxes. Both candidates supported the Savannah cruise ship terminal idea, but the biggest issue both agreed on was the need to deepen the harbor along the Savannah River.

"Absolutely. It's the most important issue facing us right here. If we don't have that harbor deepened, we will be in serious trouble," Barnes said.

"I am very much supportive of that," Deal said. "We all recognize the importance of allowing those big ships to come up the East coast and not stop right here in Savannah."

Deal's campaign opted for a one on one forum with Sonny, versus both candidates sharing the stage and ideas at the same time. Deal told WTOC they will be doing plenty of debates in the future, just not on this occasion. He felt this was a better approach.

"I just wanted to hear what their opinions were on everything," Gail Nesmith told WTOC.

Nesmith owns her own gift advertising company, sits on the Savannah Tourism and Leadership Council,  and has no idea who she's voting for in November.

"I wanted to find out how they were on tourism. I would have preferred they had both of them up there at the same time," she said.

Nesmith and others expected a debate. Instead, they saw Barnes and Deal sit down separately with Sonny.

They told WTOC their thoughts on Savannah's proposed cruise ship terminal idea.

"I am in favor of that," Barnes said. "I think it would be a great addition here and I don't think it would interfere with the commercial traffic you have."

"I just got asked that question for the first time today, so I will have to take a look at that," Deal said.

They also gave their positions on Sunday sales for alcohol.

"I think that is an issue local communities can best address. They can make their own judements. Communities are different across our state," Deal said.

"I'd sign the bill. Listen, folks want to buy beer on Sunday. Thats a decision that ought to be made locally," Barnes said.

The former Georgia Governor, and former U.S. Congressman, tackled a number of tourism related issues. Barnes says he is opposed to legalized gambling, fearing it could cut into the state Lottery. Deal says he would listen to the ideas, like horseracing, but believes there have been examples across the country of it working, and not working.

"They both seemed to have the same feelings on toruism. Both are for tourism in Savannah, which is what we're for," Nesmith said.

However, Nesmith still doesn't know who she's casting her vote for in November. "Not completely. I have a lot of thoughts but I am not going to say right now who it is for," she said. "I am still on the fence."

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