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Posted: March 3, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Pillow talk in the governor's race

It's time for Bill and Hillary Clinton to step aside. The hottest new couple in politics is one of Georgia's own, DuBose and Carol Porter.

DuBose Porter, the state legislator from Dublin, has already been campaigning for several months in the Democratic primary for governor. His wife, Carol, announced last week that she will run in the same primary for lieutenant governor.

If there has ever been another instance in Georgia or any other state where you had a husband-and-wife team at the top of the same ballot, no one can remember it. The Porters are breaking new ground with this spousal effort.

Carol Porter says she didn't really think about running until a couple of weeks ago, after she substituted for her husband at a candidates' forum and received positive reviews for her grasp of the issues. She said she encouraged Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond to run for the office but did not get a commitment from him, so she is jumping into the race.

"If you truly want family values in Georgia, elect a Georgia family," DuBose Porter quipped to the gaggle of reporters who showed up for his wife's news conference at the capitol.

You can hear any number of reasons from people involved in politics as to why this may not really be such a good idea.

They argue that Carol Porter will divert attention from her husband's campaign, although the two of them have almost the same position on virtually every major issue. She invites criticism that the dual candidacies are a media gimmick that detracts from the seriousness of the campaign. She dilutes the financial resources that might be available, since every dollar spent on her campaign is a dollar that can't be spent on her husband's campaign.

"I hate watching train wrecks," said a Democratic figure who knows both of the Porters. "It's just going to draw attention to the fact that he doesn't have that same drive to run for statewide political office that she does."

All of those criticisms may be valid, and in an ordinary election year this husband-and-wife issue might present a problem for the Porters.

This is an unusual year in Georgia politics, however. The crippling recession means that there's not as much money out there to raise from contributors. Except for Roy Barnes and to a lesser extent John Oxendine, candidates for all statewide offices are having a difficult time raising any funds. During the last six months of 2009, Barnes raised more than $2.7 million in contributions; DuBose Porter raised a little more than $141,000, or about 5 percent of Barnes' total.

The idea of two spouses on the same election ballot is the kind of unusual story angle that ensures both of the Porters will receive a lot of free media coverage - which was the case last week, as TV news crews jammed the capitol to cover her announcement.

With little or no money to buy TV time, it becomes all the more important for a candidate to get as much free coverage as possible. The Porters, who own and operate a chain of small newspapers in Middle Georgia, understand full well how that game is played.

DuBose Porter acknowledged this in an entry on his campaign website: "She announced this morning at 11 a.m. and as of 6:00 p.m. today, Google shows there have been 123 stories posted on her announcement, including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post."

He knows that the unprecedented combination of a married couple running for high office will be an irresistible story for cable TV shows as well as print newspapers.
You can bet that the Porters will soon be appearing on the air with such cable personalities as Larry King, Oprah Winfrey, Keith Olbermann, Joy Behar, and Bill O'Reilly. That coverage won't cost them a penny and will help them get their names out in front of ordinary Georgians in a way that no other candidate can match.

Both of the Porters are underdogs in their political races, but in a weird year like this one, who knows? Free media coverage may keep a candidate - or candidates - in contention.

Tom Crawford is the editor of Capitol Impact's Georgia Report, an Internet news service at www.gareport.com that covers government and politics in Georgia. He can be reached at tcrawford@capitolimpact.net.


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