Hecht's antics give Martin edge in lite guv's race 

Aug. 8 primary runoff

Plus, endorsements in other runoffs

Creative Loafing last month endorsed Greg Hecht, a former state senator and assistant district attorney from Clayton County, in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

We like Hecht's aggressive, scrappy attitude. He'd be quite comfortable punching back hard against Republican attacks -- a must in Georgia's current dogfight politics.

Hecht articulates creative ideas for lowering the cost of prescription drugs, building commuter rail lines and bulking up Georgia's vocational training.

But after recent low-blow antics by Hecht, CL is changing its endorsement for the Aug. 8 Democratic primary runoff. We now support Jim Martin, a former state representative and human resources commissioner from Atlanta.

Ten days before the July 18 primary, Hecht sent out a mailer that grossly misrepresented Martin's stance on rape and sexual assault. Hecht's campaign pulled a quote from a 1994 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article and placed it out of context, claiming Martin said victims of rape "should have known better." The complete quote, as it ran, was, "If there were any such factors -- such as she was in a bar, should have known better, wore a short dress -- some juries are unwilling to prosecute the crime as rape."

The sensational mailer showed a woman's face covered by a hand and also attacked Martin, a defense attorney, for his law firm's representation of the defendant in a two-decade-old rape case.

The quote refers to a bill Martin authored in the General Assembly. The purpose of the bill, Martin says, was to gain more convictions for rape and sexual assault.

Prosecutors and women's groups were divided over whether Martin's bill would have made it easier to win convictions or represented an attempt to go too easy on rapists.

The issue might have been a valid campaign dispute defining two candidates' positions. That would have required principled debate. But Hecht maladroitly elected to sling mud.

Hecht says Martin started the negative campaigning a month earlier by painting Hecht as not sufficiently supportive of abortion rights. A June 9 letter on Jim Martin letterhead authored by three pro-choice advocates states, "Greg Hecht has failed to support women on the tough votes that really matter." In 1997, Hecht voted for a partial-birth abortion ban, which put a stop to certain late-term abortions. Martin voted against it.

Hecht retorts: "What we were saying was, 'Look, Mr. Martin, you started this debate. ... And the truth is we've been a champion for women, and you started this negative campaign.'"

Martin counters: "There's a difference between showing the difference in my position and Greg's position ... and distorting that position. I never did that."

Hecht maintains his mailer is accurate. "I think the piece was too graphic, a little over the top," he says. "But the factors are what he said, not what we said."

There are nuances in this tit for tat. But there is a clear difference in tactics used by the two men: Martin's campaign accurately took on Hecht for a vote he took.

Hecht crossed a line between aggressive campaigning and smearing his opponent. We're comfortable with his scrappy style, but not when it turns into an irresponsible, false characterization of a decent public servant.

Martin has been criticized for not being forceful enough in his commissioner's post and for being a bit too mellow.

As we said in our earlier endorsement of Hecht, both candidates are highly qualified. But we'd rather see a decent, honest candidate take on Republican Casey Cagle in November than one who misconstrues the facts.

(For transcripts of CL's interviews with Martin and Hecht, see www.clpoliticalparty.com.)

Our other endorsements

· Secretary of State

· We did not endorse either of the Democratic candidates who made it to the runoff. Gail Buckner has been a good, if not stellar, state legislator. Darryl Hicks has valuable business experience. We tilt towards Hicks due to his passion for efficient customer service.

· Karen Handel is the best choice -- by far -- in the Republican runoff.

· Congress, District 4

· The soft-spoken Hank Johnson should be given a chance to restore dignity to the seat long abused by Cynthia McKinney.

· State Legislature

· District 58 (neighborhoods east of Grant Park): Allen Thornell.

· District 59 (west of Grant Park): Rep. Douglas Dean.

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