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Once again, a contender in the Republican runoff for governor has launched a negative attack.
The reason? His opponent has gone too negative, he said.
The campaign of former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal of Gainesville launched its assault in a news release Friday. It said former Secretary of State Karen Handel has run "a 100 percent negative campaign. Not one all-positive mail piece or TV ad."
The Handel camp disagrees. Portions of its mailers are positive, a spokesman said. The remainder are "contrasts" that accurately compare her with her opponents. Plus, Deal's campaign has done its share of attacks.
The winner of the Aug. 10 runoff will go on to face former Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, during the general election in November.
So has Handel really run a "100 percent negative campaign"?
Deal's camp produced four Handel mailers and two TV commercials as evidence. This item reviews each of them but does not assess whether the attacks are true.
Handel's campaign launched the "Solid" TV ad for the runoff against Deal.
"One carries a purse," an announcer says over images of a green purse and Handel.
"The other carries baggage," he continues. A black-and-white image of Deal appears next to a moneybag. Quotes about Deal using the words "corrupt" and "scandal" zip across the screen.
At one point, it calls Deal "a corrupt relic of Washington, D.C."
This four-page runoff mailer looks like a magazine. The title "Investigation Journal" runs across its cover near a photo of Deal.
"Nathan Deal's Corruption Probed," it says. "Back Room Deals, Million Dollar Payments and Resignation from Congress." The remainder reviews news accounts of accusations that Deal violated ethics rules.
This 30-second spot ran during the Republican primary. The attacks take place in the ad's first 12 seconds.
"Three who have iffy ethics. One who wears lipstick," it begins.
Three black-and-white smiles appear on the screen next to a pair of red lips.
"Three who look after themselves. One who looks after you," the announcer continues.
The black-and-white smiles transform into photos of Handel's opponents in the primary, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, state Sen. Eric Johnson and Deal, next to a smiling pair of red lips.
"Three Who Look Out for Themselves, Only One Who Looks Out for Us"
The title of this four-page primary mailer is self-explanatory. It attacks the same opponents that she did in the "Lipstick" ad. A chart comparing the candidates says they all have ethics problems and were previously Democrats, among other things.
"Fulton County's Own Karen Handel Stands Up Against Corruption ... While her Opponents are Politics as Usual"
This four-page primary mailer attacks the same three candidates. Although two pages are mainly devoted to her campaign promises and records, the front and back covers are attacks on her opponents and accusations that they behaved unethically.
Mostly negative, with some positive portions.
This eight-page primary mailer, which also looks like a magazine, is mostly positive. The cover touts her conservative credentials, life story and business history.
Two pages detail her personal, business and political records. Two discuss her platform.
But the next two are once again attacks on Republican primary candidates that repeat accusations from other attack mailers. The back cover calls her opponents "good-ole-boys."
Mostly positive, with some negative portions.
So where does this leave us?
PolitiFact Georgia asked Handel's camp for wholly positive mailers to counter Deal's claim, but it produced none. Her camp's defense is that what Deal's campaign said are negative attacks are actually "comparisons" between her and her opponents.
Still, they are negative comparisons. So the Deal campaign's claim that none of her mailers or TV ads are completely positive is correct.
Now labeling anything "100 percent" anything is trouble. Significant portions of two of her mailers are positive. In addition, Handel's campaign website, which the Deal campaign's accusation didn't mention in its claim, contains positive elements as well as attacks.
Plus, Deal's campaign doesn't smell like roses. For instance, one TV ad, "How Can We Trust Karen Handel on Anything?", accuses Handel of telling "lies" about Deal but doesn't say what they are. A mailer accuses her of a "record of gay activism" that social conservatives would oppose.
The claim that Handel has run "a 100 percent negative campaign" is an attack in itself.
And the fact remains that both of Handel's TV ads are negative, and the majority of pages in Handel's mailers are focused on attacks. While Deal's campaign paid too little attention to the positive elements of her campaign, the overall impression its statement gives is true. Handel's campaign is negative.
We rule Deal's accusation Mostly True.
Interview, Brian Robinson, spokesman, Nathan Deal for Governor, Aug. 2, 2010
Interview, Dan McLagan, spokesman, Karen Handel for Governor, Aug. 2, 2010
"Solid," TV commercial, Karen Handel for Governor, posted July 29, 2010
"Lipstick," TV commercial, Karen Handel for Governor, posted July 09, 2010
"How Can We Trust Karen Handel on Anything?", Nathan Deal for Governor, posted July 13, 2010
"Investigation Journal," campaign mailer, Karen Handel for Governor
"Three Who Look Out for Themselves, Only One Who Looks Out for Us," campaign mailer, Karen Handel for Governor
"Fulton County's Own Karen Handel Stands Up Against Corruption ... While her Opponents are Politics as Usual," campaign mailer, Karen Handel for Governor
"Georgia Conservative," campaign mailer, Karen Handel for Governor, received the week of June 28, 2010
"The Trusted, Respected Conservative," campaign mailer, Nathan Deal for Governor
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