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Despite endorsement from Sarah Palin, Karen Handel was seen by grassroots activists in Georgia as the more moderate gubernatorial candidate.

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Deal Was Real Conservative in Georgia Race

Despite endorsement from Sarah Palin, Karen Handel was seen by grassroots activists in Georgia as the more moderate gubernatorial candidate.

For all the conclusions of the national punditocracy that both contenders in the razor-thin Republican run-off for governor of Georgia Tuesday were conservatives, discussions HUMAN EVENTS had with grass-roots conservative activists in the Peach State reveals something quite different: that Nathan Deal, who eventually won by less than 1% of the vote, was a solid movement conservative and runner-up Karen Handel—endorsed by Sarah Palin—was closely tied to the more moderate GOP establishment.

Stalwart conservative Rep. Jack Kingston was spot-on when, as HUMAN EVENTS reported Wednesday, he said: “Karen Handel is a very decent candidate, but she’s clearly the more moderate person in the race.”

Kingston also took a not-so-subtle swipe at Sarah Palin for backing the former Georgia secretary of state, telling talk-show hosts John McCaslin and Amy Holmes: “Why Sarah Palin decided to get in the race is beyond me. I don’t know why she feels compelled to get into the primaries all over the country, but fortunately Georgia voters are doing their own thinking on things like this.”

Other Georgia conservative activists agreed. As former Republican National Committeewoman Carolyn Meadows told HUMAN EVENTS shortly after Handel conceded yesterday, “Nathan Deal was the ‘real Deal’ when it came to social conservatism and was clearly the candidate of the grass-roots and not the ‘establishment.’ The same could not be said of Karen Handel.” Along with her decades of toiling for conservative candidates and causes, Meadows serves on the board of the American Conservative Union and the National Rifle Association.

Where Deal opposed abortion under any circumstances except to save the life of a mother, Handel said she backed that exception as well as cases of rape and incest. Georgia Right to Life strongly endorsed Deal, as did Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

But abortion was not the only issue raising doubts about Handel on the right. As chairman of the Fulton County (Atlanta) Commission, Handel had friendly relations with the Log Cabin Republicans and her campaign statement that she would consider banning gay adoption appeared at odds with earlier exchanges she had with the GOP gay group.

In terms of state Republican politics, many conservatives never fully trusted Handel because of her financial support from the more moderate GOP “establishment” in Georgia. Fred Cooper of the Flowers Corporation and Republican National Committeeman Alex Poitevant were both firmly in her camp which convinced many on the right that Handel, as governor, would be their enemy when it came to party matters.

“Karen had worked as a top aide to [lame duck GOP Gov.] Sonny Perdue, who has never been close to grass-roots conservatives,” said one party activist who requested anonymity. “There was a fear that if she was elected, it would be a third term for Sonny.”

Newt Gingrich and the American Conservative Union’s political action committee obviously knew the lay of the political landscape in Georgia and supported Deal over Handel. Sarah Palin, it appears, did not.

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Written By

John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ? and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ? and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â? video interviews that appear on HumanEvents.com. Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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