Lt. Gov. hopefuls call truce on negative ads

ATLANTA - The two Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor in next week's runoff are promising to end all negative ads for the duration of the campaign.

The race between former legislators Jim Martin of Atlanta and Greg Hecht of Jonesboro is one of several during the primary season that have been marred by virtually nonstop mudslinging.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary contest between Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Secretary of State Cathy Cox - won by Taylor - was another.

On the Republican side, state Sen. Casey Cagle and political consultant Ralph Reed battered each other mercilessly in a fight for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor won by Cagle.

State Sen. Bill Stephens and Fulton County Commission Chairman Karen Handel continue to hammer each other in their Aug. 8 runoff race for the Republican nod for secretary of state.

But until now, none of the candidates locked in these heated contests has vowed to call off the negative ads.

The truce between Martin and Hecht was declared during a televised debate on Monday night.

It was Martin, a member of the Georgia House for 18 years, who called for the pledge.

It came after he criticized two mailings sent out by the Hecht campaign, including a flier slamming Martin for sponsoring legislation in 1994 that would have created four categories of rape.

The piece quoted Martin as saying that some rape victims "should have known better.''

Martin has said that his bill would have led to more convictions because it would have allowed juries, which sometimes find extenuating circumstances in rape cases, to send defendants in those instances to prison for lesser sentences than the law at the time allowed instead of letting them go free.

"That's an outrageous piece of mail,'' Martin said during the debate. "It totally mischaracterized my position.''

Hecht, who served for six years in the House and Senate, apologized for taking the quote out of context and agreed to Martin's call to stop the negative campaigning.

But Hecht went on to accuse his opponent of being the first to go negative in the race.

"This was started by you, Jim, and you know it,'' Hecht told Martin.

Hecht said Martin put out a mailer early in the campaign charging that Hecht didn't support women's rights.

"I had been an attorney for 11 years representing women,'' Hecht said.

Martin also objected to a Hecht campaign mailer that said 72 abused or neglected Georgia children who had been brought to the attention of the state's child protection agency died during Martin's tenure as head of the department that oversees the agency.

"It was totally inappropriate,'' said Martin, who added that both governors he served under - Roy Barnes and Sonny Perdue - congratulated him for the job he did at the Department of Human Resources.

Martin finished first in the July 18 primary with 41.2 percent of the vote, to 36.4 percent for Hecht.

State law requires a runoff when candidates fail to garner a majority of the vote.