Georgia Primaries Too Hot to Handle

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, August 20, 2002, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: It is election season, and Georgia primaries are evidently too hot to handle. Two Republican heavyweights fight for the same seat in Congress, each similar in views, making the race all about style. And a couple of Democrats are nose-to-nose, leaving the Arab-Israeli conflict the deciding factor in their race. Joining us now from Atlanta is Jeff Dickerson, columnist for the Atlanta Business Chronicle and The Atlanta Tribune.So Jeff, tell us about these races, and why don't you start with the Democratic primary.

JEFF DICKERSON, COLUMNIST: The Democratic primary is between Cynthia McKinney, who has been a lightning rod on issues related to Sept. 11. She is the one who apologized, you might remember, to the Saudi prince after his $10 million donation was turned down after [he made] some disparaging remarks to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in New York City. She issued an apology, and there was a national cry.She followed that up with a accusation that the president of the United States and his father knew about Sept. 11, allowed it to happen so that they could personally profit. She said that there was some evidence for all of this. She is in a tight races with Denise Majette, and this has broken down around the Middle East. [There are a] lot of pro-Israel supporters on Majette's side and an awful lot of pro-Arab forces on the McKinney side.

GIBSON: McKinney was also the only vote against the war in Afghanistan, wasn't she?

DICKERSON: Well, she was — yes, as far as I know... McKinney also, however, was a vote in favor of the war against terrorism.

GIBSON: All right. I've read, and maybe it was in a piece by you, that people who are normally registered Republicans are registering Democrat in order to go vote against McKinney. They're so anxious to see her gone, they will actually switch parties to get in the other side's primary and vote against her.

DICKERSON: At least for a day, John. We've seen some incredible crossover voting in heavily Republican precincts in the Fourth District here in Georgia where there are 95 percent Republicans voting pretty much 90 percent Democratic so that they can vote in this contest. Interestingly, Cynthia McKinney's father, who was a state representative here in Georgia, went on television last night and said this race is all about Jews and looked in the camera and spelled it, J-E-W-S. That is pretty heavy stuff coming from a campaign that's gotten more than 50 percent of this...

GIBSON: Well, it is heavy. Why is it that the Arab-Israeli fight turns up in Georgia?

DICKERSON: It turns up in Georgia, in large part, because of Cynthia McKinney's comments, her very strong pro-Palestinian stance in Congress, and the fact that she's gotten the vast majority of her campaign funds from Arab-Americans around the nation. I think that some pro-Israeli forces nationwide have looked at that set of circumstances and funneled heavily into Denise Majette's campaign. But I think that there are a lot of people in the Fourth District in Georgia who think that the race ought to be about the Fourth Congressional District in Georgia, and not the Middle East.

GIBSON: All right. Before I run out of time... Bob Barr, a frequent guest on all of our shows... is in trouble. What's going on?

DICKERSON: He is in trouble. Democrats in Georgia, those who were drawing the lines, pulled a fast one on Bob Barr and John Linder — two veteran Republican congressmen — and put them in the sort of situation where they, if they wanted to continue to serve in Congress, would have to run against each other. That's what they're doing today in Georgia. Again, [there's] heavy voter turnout in that district, the Seventh District. The race is about 35 percent of John Linder's old race. Bob Barr, of course, has a very spirited following in Georgia, and so folks are voting heavily in that contest as we speak.

GIBSON: Jeff Dickerson, columnist for The Atlanta Business Chronicle and Atlanta Tribune. Turns out he happens to be an international relations reporter to cover a simple race in Georgia. Jeff, thanks very much, appreciate it.

DICKERSON: Thank you, John.

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