DALTON, Ga. - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes said Volks-wagen decided to build in Chattanooga because the city and Tennessee leaders pursued the carmaker aggressively, and he vowed to bring a similar attitude to the Georgia governor's mansion.
"I'll tell you why it's not here," Barnes said speaking at a rally in Dalton on Monday. "We didn't have a governor and General Assembly that sought them out. That's the kind of aggressiveness you have to have."
Barnes and Republican former Congressman Nathan Deal will be on the ballot next week in a contest to determine Georgia's next governor.
Barnes spoke about boosting education funding, helping manufacturers build and stay in Georgia and discussed the future of high speed rail in the Peach State. Standing inside a historic train depot, Barnes pledged that if he's elected, Georgia will "get its act together" on transportation, including placing a "high priority" on high-speed rail between Atlanta, Chattanooga and Macon, Ga.
He said the Western Atlantic Railroad's lease on the state-owned train tracks just outside the depot comes up in 2016 and the state should move toward other ways to use what he called a "perfect corridor."
He said federal dollars are available, but state and local governments need to do a better job of freeing up matching money. He vowed to push the rail lines forward to move toward the transportation system "we've been promising for a generation."
"It's time to do it or shut up," Barnes said.
Barnes also discussed education, saying that investing in schools is the way to spark jobs growth and prosperity as opposed to cutting corporate taxes.
Teachers, some of whom Barnes angered during his time as governor, were present and vocal Monday, with a couple dozen sporting green Georgia Association of Educators shirts.
"I think any educator who reads through the platforms will be hands down for Barnes," said Jim Barrett, director of the Georgia Association of Educators District 1.
Deal has promised to "take power away from education bureaucrats and empower local leaders to cater their plans to their local needs and resources." He said he wants more options for students and parents "to give them greater choice in public education."
North Georgia is considered a Republican stronghold but Margaret Ball, the 9th Congressional District Democratic Party chairwoman, said Democrats in the region are "energized."
Statewide polls have consistently shown Deal coming out on top, but Ball said "a lot can happen in a week."