- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2002

Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes gave himself, Sen. Max Cleland and Democratic House candidates a major boost in announcing yesterday barely two weeks before the Nov. 5 elections that DaimlerChrysler will build a new $750 million van plant in his state.

"I am extremely excited about DaimlerChrysler choosing Georgia," Mr. Barnes said. "This is further confirmation that our state and our citizens are prepared to compete in the global economy."

Georgia had competed with neighboring South Carolina and Florida for the plant.

The new plant, to be built 12 miles west of Savannah, will mean 3,300 new jobs at an average salary of $47,000 per year. It would be a big deal anywhere but is especially so in rural southeast Georgia.

The timing of the announcement struck some as more than coincidence.

"I have no doubt that Chrysler had agreed to put the plant here well before this, and the governor maneuvered to have the announcement delayed until two weeks before the election," said a Georgia Republican campaign strategist.

The announcement came on the same day President Bush made his third visit to the state to raise money for Republican Sonny Perdue, who is challenging Mr. Barnes, and for Rep. Saxby Chambliss, who is challenging Mr. Cleland.

What's more, the new plant will be built in the newly created 12th Congressional District, where Republican Max Burns is competing for a House seat with Democrat Charles "Champ" Walker, whose father is Mr. Barnes' floor leader in the state Senate.

Some Republican House members greeted the news with enthusiasm, but others were shaking their heads at the timing.

"I think there certainly is political element in the timing," said Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican.

"Our governor took credit for lots of things other people, including [Sen.] Zell Miller did. … And now he will take credit for job creation," Mr. Kingston said. "The only thing he hasn't taken credit for is the dip on the [stock market]."

Republicans are not conceding that the plant announcement is a major coup for the Democratic ticket and a blow to the whole Republican ticket.

"I'm not sure there's any rub-off here for Max Cleland or any of the other Democrats," said Bo Harmon, campaign manager for Mr. Chambliss. "I certainly don't see how it helps Champ Walker just because it will be in the new district. Jack Kingston is the congressman from Savannah and he deserves as much credit as anyone else."

Yesterday's Bush visit gave a boost of about $500,000 each to Mr. Perdue and Mr. Chambliss, both of whom are trailing the Democratic incumbents in the polls.

Mr. Bush appeared at a $1,000 a plate luncheon at a hotel in downtown Atlanta that drew about 600 guests. Another 100 or so major donors, who gave $10,000, attended a private reception and picture-taking session with the president.

But it was Mr. Barnes, the governor and the candidate, who grabbed the headlines because of the DaimlerChrysler announcement.

The governor has far outraised the Perdue campaign, which has not been able to air many television ads but the injection of money from Mr. Bush's visit is expected to buy Mr. Perdue full TV time through Nov. 5.

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