GOP stands behind Deal

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The financial woes of its gubernatorial candidate won't stop the Gwinnett GOP from supporting Nathan Deal, party chairman Bruce LeVell said Friday.

LeVell commended Deal, a former congressman, for his honesty about the situation that came to light this week, where Deal and his wife are left $2 million in debt because of co-signing loans for his daughter's failed business.

While Deal's daughter and her husband have filed bankruptcy, the Gainesville politician said he would not file bankruptcy and would pay his debts.

"Nathan Deal today demonstrated again why he must be the next governor of the great state of Georgia," LeVell said in a statement. "He has fully explained the situation surrounding his personal finances, making it clear that he is among the many Georgians whose financial standing has been affected by the economic downturn. Like so many of us, he was simply attempting to help his own children start their own small business, as he understands that entrepreneurship is the backbone of the American Dream."

Deal spoke Friday at a Gwinnett Bar Association luncheon, where he focused on the campaign issues of public safety, education and job creation. Afterward, he said the negative publicity about his finances has been difficult.

He said he is proud of his daughter and the hard work she and her husband put into their outdoor supply store, but he said it has been difficult for his family for the news to become public.

"Those are the things most Georgians understand," he said of the struggle to succeed in a flailing economy.

LeVell said the members of the Gwinnett GOP empathize.

"We have seen here in Gwinnett County how the downturn has affected thousands of families, particularly those hard-hit in the real estate, construction and associated industries," he said. "This gubernatorial campaign is about who can bring those jobs back to Georgia and Gwinnett County, and who is best equipped to get our economy moving again. Nathan Deal is clearly that candidate. His public service experience, combined with his plan to lower the tax and regulatory burden on our citizens and small businesses, makes him the one candidate who can immediately bring high-paying jobs to our state."

Democrat Roy Barnes was invited to speak at Friday's luncheon but had a scheduling conflict.

Instead, Deal, a former lawyer, had the crowd to himself.

Questioned on issues such as indigent defense and tort reform, he said he was willing to take suggestions from the attorneys on those topics.