Georgia's Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor appeared on the Rob Redding show Feb. 26, 2003 to discuss a referendum on the states flag, and Democrats losing the state to Republicans for the first time since reconstruction.



Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, how are you doing, sir? 

Mark Taylor: Good afternoon, Rob; doing great! 

It’s been a long time since we spoke; as a matter of fact, I believe the last time we spoke was in Macon, Georgia. When you were running for Lieutenant Governor the first time. 

Mark Taylor: I hope it hasn’t been that long, Rob – but it may be. We’ve been looking forward to getting on the program for some time. I’m glad we’re finally getting together. 

Right. And congratulations on your win into office – one more time here… 

Mark Taylor: Miracles never cease! We are blessed! 

You would term it a miracle…that you won? 

Mark Taylor: I think so! Anytime you can go to the people and ask for their support – on an election, with all the things that can go right, and all of the things that can go wrong, I think an election victory is always a miracle from the Lord; I’m blessed. 

So this is your first time to really thank the listeners of WAOK, for their support…I guess if they gave it…to your… 

Mark Taylor: Well, I certainly hope it’s not the first time they heard me express my gratitude, because I owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude; I love my work very much, and I’m glad to still be working in state government. I feel like I have the great opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Georgians for the next four years. With their help, their support, their prayer…and we’re hard at it, with the general assembly…heating up! 

Yes, as a matter of fact, there is an interesting article – in today’s paper. Speaking of “heating up”, and we’ll get to that…about…actually, it will be in tomorrow’s paper – something that just happened with Ron Sailor Jr., down at the legislature today, where I believe he got into some verbal altercation, with one of the lobbyists down there, and I want to talk to you about that; I don’t know if you heard about it, upon leaving the state house… 

Mark Taylor: Not familiar with that particular situation; but I do know that the general assembly session is a time when uh…some…very, very opinionated, strong-willed people come together; and sometimes, their differences escalate…generally, we keep things on a professional basis, and hopefully, that will always be the case; the people of Georgia deserve our professional attention to the issues…[and] trying to keep our emotions to a minimum…but sometimes, they do boil over! 

Speaking of being professional – does it strike you as being strange that…this, your new Governor – who you’re serving alongside…Sonny Perdue…has come into office…that a number of your colleagues have switched parties? 

Mark Taylor: Well, it was a surprise; it was very disappointing; we had four members of the State Senate, who had been Democrats during their entire career…had just completed an election on November 5th, where they were elected – two of them over severe Republican opposition…very, very hard hitting – some would say dirty, campaigns run against them by Republicans. And two members of the Senate who were unopposed – no Democrat challenged them because they had been good Democrats; and no Republican challenged them; and within days, they switched parties, for very reasons! And none of them reasons good enough, I think, to defraud the voters of their districts – by running as Democrats, then choosing to switch parties! And in doing so, throwing control of the Georgia State Senate – which the people on November 5th, selected as a Democratic majority, with Democrats given the opportunity to set the agenda; name committee chairs, name committee members, and move the Democratic agenda forward – uh, give that power to the Republican Party, over night, in a party switch…it was very, very disappointing that they actually stole the vote of the people, because the people of Georgia voted for a Democratic Senate, but four Democrats in Georgia switched parties in the Senate, and now we have a Republican Senate…but…uh, I think it’s going to be a wake-up call for the people of Georgia; I think, in 2004, when people return to the polls, that they will overwhelmingly elect a Democratic majority in the State Senate; and I’m certainly going to be urging them to do so! 

Now, speaking of party switches, I’m sure they also – they being Republicans – have approached you; to switch parties. What have you told them? 

Mark Taylor: The Republican Party has been very aggressive over the years, and in recent months; getting out to Democrats, and urging them to switch parties, and there was a time in my career that they tried to make that pitch to me! My first election was a nonpartisan election; because it was a special election, I could have chosen to run as a Republican or a Democrat, or not stayed of party affiliation. I’m a Georgia Democrat…this party has been great to our state; it has been great, I think, to the people of Georgia; I’m proud to be a Georgia Democrat, and I would never consider switching parties – especially after serving in the State Senate, serving as Lieutenant Governor, when I’ve had the opportunity to see the agenda of the Republican Party; and be frightened by it, and be energized to fight it everyday! 

Speaking of switching parties…it is one of the questions I asked of Sonny Perdue, when he was in the studio last week…about why he switched from being a Democrat to being a Republican, and I understand that you two had a run-in, in the State House, when he…shortly after he switched parties. Can you tell me a little about that? 

Mark Taylor: Well, we didn’t have any kind of run-in at all; I was certainly disappointed that the highest appointed, elected senator, in the Democratic Party; elected by all the members in the Senate to serve in the absence of Lt. Governor – which is the position Sonny Perdue held, prior to switching parties…like all of the Democrats who worked with then Senator Perdue over the years, we were hurt and disappointed; heartbroken that he would leave us, prior to a campaign; then he would campaign against those Democratic senators who had elected him as the president pro-tem of the senate! But we had no run-in; I expressed my disappointment to Senator Perdue; Senator Perdue did receive some committee assignments, as a member of the minority party at that time; and certainly, there was some controversy about those committee assignments; but it’s not a personal matter, it’s just a philosophical matter…I don’t believe that people should switch parties! And if they switch parties, then they shouldn’t be rewarded with the best committee assignments, or with positions of influence… 

So, he took it personally, when you reassigned him to some of these… 

Mark Taylor: I wouldn’t…I wouldn’t choose to speak for Governor Perdue… 

What did he say to you at the time? 

Mark Taylor: We haven’t had a conversation about it! 

Even back then, when he was… 

Mark Taylor: No sir…he asked that his committee assignments not be changed…we had a good laugh about that request…I think that he knew his committee assignments might be changed…and they were changed! 

Right…and I guess, further more on switching parties…is there anything to legally stop a person from doing this? 

Mark Taylor: No, at this time, there is not; and I am supporting legislation that has been introduced in the House side, to say once you have been elected as a Democrat or a Republican, should you change parties, that you need to resign at that point; and allow a special election to be held! And I hope that the general assembly will consider that legislation; and if it passes, I hope that it will be found to be constitutional! I really believe that switching parties, in mid-term, without giving the people of your district a chance to re-vote – is a fraud on the members of your district! 

Is there a precedent for that, in other states? 

Mark Taylor: There have been legislative efforts – the state of Kentucky had some progress in legislation towards this; I don’t believe it became law; I don’t know if there’s any law against switching parties…but I think there’s a moral law against switching parties! And I know, party switchers – I would assume, that sometimes they have a hard time looking at themselves in the mirror; because they know somebody else bought them to the dance, and they left their dance partner, and switched mid-stream…and I hope that they contemplate that moral obligation! 

How would you…characterize your relationship now…with the new Governor? 

Mark Taylor: I have a deep respect for the office of Governor. I have every intention of finding areas where I can work with Governor Perdue. He is an intelligent person, he is a hard working person; we both come from the non-Metro Atlanta area of Georgia; we have some interests in economic development, and job creation – some interests in economic development that we can work on…and I’m always going to respect the office of Governor…I hope he will respect the office of Lt. Governor, and I know at the end of his four years in office, we will have found more things to work together on, than more things we will have opposed each other on. 

Now you keep saying, “the office of Governor”, and the “office of Lieutenant Governor”, but your respect for Mr. Perdue, being that he is a party switcher, that he used to be a colleague of yours, and he opposes many of your positions, how do you feel about him personally? 

Mark Taylor: Governor Perdue is my governor. I am pledged to do everything I can to cause him to be a successful Governor…we can’t wait four years; we have to move Georgia forward now! And I’m working hard on keeping Governor Perdue focused on issues important to the people of Georgia – what I call kitchen table issues…I’m urging him to be focused on jobs; protecting the jobs of Georgians; bringing more jobs to Georgia! I’m urging him not to raise taxes on the backs of the people of Georgia. It’s not necessary at this time. I’m urging him to move the state forward on issues like better schools and safer streets, as opposed to divisive issues, like the state flag and redistricting; and other matters that would cause the legislature of Georgia to be divided as opposed to united. 

Speaking of trying to be policy oriented, you’ve been stripped of most of your power. Has he been respectful of your office, by stripping you of that power? 

Mark Taylor: Well, let’s be clear – it’s not Governor Perdue that made the change in the Senate rules, to cause a committee of senators to make those appointments, as opposed to the lieutenant governor. Governor Perdue, as you might expect, reached out, and made some significant offers…of positions of influence…perhaps jobs in his administration, perhaps budget projects…and he was successful in convincing four members of the senate to change parties! But it’s not Governor Perdue who made the change in the Senate rules – I wasn’t elected Rob, in 1998 or in 2002, to name committee chairs to committees; I was elected to protect the HOPE scholarship, to move Georgia forward in the area of public schools – to cause public schools to not become poverty schools; to make our community safer through child-endangerment legislation; to fight for jobs in inner-city Georgia and in rural Georgia; and that’s what I was elected to do, and that’s what I’m going to do…and again, I’m blessed and thankful to have the opportunity to serve as the President of the Senate, and to move that agenda forward! 

Now, I know that you were elected to do those wonderful things you just spoke about, but how have you been prohibited in doing that, by the reduction of your power, by the Republican administration incoming? 

Mark Taylor: I don’t think I’ve been restricted in any way. Just as I have done throughout my time as Lieutenant Governor, I move forward with a legislative agenda; we have a number of bills we are promoting this year; those bills have been introduced by members of the Senate and members of the House; and we are urging members of both bodies, the House and the Senate, Republican and Democrat, to support my legislative agenda. So at this point, as the session reaches its halfway point, I’m pleased with the progress of my agenda. 

So you haven’t been stripped of any power at all, in terms of your position? 

Mark Taylor: Well, certainly, I do not make committee assignments any longer, I don’t name the chairs of committees in the Georgia State Senate, those were powers that were provided to the Lt. Governor by members of the Senate; the majority party has changed in the Senate! But it has not caused me to be unable to serve as president of the body, to preside everyday in the State Senate; to reach out to those million-plus Georgians who supported me for re-election; and to urge them to be supportive of the agenda that they elected me on. So we’re doing fine, the Big Guy is doing A.O.K. as their Lt. Governor! 

So the committee assignments aren’t an important part of the Lt. Governorship? 

Mark Taylor: Oh, they’re a very important part of our process! Because a committee chair has tremendous influence – on when and if his or her committee will carry legislation. I was proud to set a record as Lt. Governor, for the number of minorities to chair committees; I had seven minority committee chairs! I had three members of our party, minority members, who chaired budget subcommittees, a record in both instances. And I was proud of the team we had, running the state senate for the last four years; it was diverse, it was inclusive; and we did some great things in the areas of education, public safety, and economic development. But again, four members of the senate, who were receptive to an offer of power and influence, switched parties and now the Republican Party will be presiding in the Senate for the next two years…but after this wake-up call… 

You keep saying wake-up call – what do you mean by that? 

Mark Taylor: Well, the Republican agenda is a scary agenda…it is a divisive agenda… 

How? 

Mark Taylor: Well, we have legislation moving through Republican controlled committees right now, to remove insurance coverage for women; coverage that were fought for, for many years, to allow women to go to their OBGYN, as opposed to a gatekeeper physician; legislation that was passed to allow them to stay in the hospital 48 hours, at least, after giving birth; 48 hours at least, after having a mastectomy; to allow their insurance coverage to cover mastectomies; legislation that is anti-women has been introduced by the Republican majority in the Senate, and we are fighting that. This focus, on a woman’s right to choose…and doing away with that most private decision that women have to make between them and their medical adviser, and their religious adviser, and their families…I think that’s anti-women. So, as we go through the legislative session, and we see the Republican Party’s focus on raising taxes on working people; on dividing the state along gender lines – man and woman; dividing the state along racial lines – over this flag issue; I think that’s going to be a wake-up call, and I think people are going to say, “look, we had it pretty good when the Democrats were in charge of the Governor’s office, and the House and Senate, and maybe we need to go back, to a Democratic majority, in the House and Senate, and Governor’s office.” 

Why do you think Governor Barnes lost? 

Mark Taylor: Governor Barnes made the hard choices! He made the hard calls! He pushed forward on an agenda of Georgia’s future; an agenda around transportation, around clean air and clean water. He was not afraid to tackle the tough issues of public education, and he knew that the parents of Georgia, and the children of Georgia, deserved great schools! Led by dedicated teachers and smaller class sizes! And he knew that Georgia could not move forward, as the progressive leader of the Southeastern United States, as a national leader – if we had a divisive state symbol like the 1956 flag; and he moved to make those changes! He wasn’t reading the political polls; he wasn’t testing the waters; he made the hard decisions, and I think history will say – that although he was not re-elected – because of a combination of factors, that he was a fine, fine Governor for the people of Georgia! 

Speaking about the flag, Sonny Perdue won’t say how he will vote, in this referendum that he wants so badly, let me read to you, and remind you of your statement – 

A referendum on the flag will tear this state apart. The people of Georgia should not have to decide on two Confederate flags. There are far more important issues facing Georgia: nursing homes are closing, citizens are facing higher taxes, Georgians are losing their jobs, and Georgia’s troops are heading to a possible war. Our focus should be on Homeland Security and balancing our budget, without raising taxes. 

That was on February the 12th. Nowhere in that statement, however, do you say where you stand, specifically, on the flag… 

Mark Taylor: I support the current flag! I don’t want to see us have a referendum, I don’t want to see our state divided; I’m urging Governor Perdue to change his mind about the flag referendum; I hope that he will make the decision that we, as a state can move forward, without a referendum that will divide our state among racial lines. Uh…it’s really not much of a question how Governor Perdue would vote, because in 1993, he was given the opportunity to change the state flag, as a member of the State Senate – to go back to the pre-1956 state flag, and he voted “no”; in 2001, when a new state flag was presented, to replace the St. Andrews Cross, the previous Georgia flag, he again voted “no”. So he doesn’t support the pre-’56 flag, at least by his vote in the legislature; and he doesn’t support the present flag, so I think it’s pretty clear how he might vote. I hope he changes his mind about that, I hope that he changes his mind about having a referendum; because the state does not need to open that very divisive issue; were it not for the impending war in the Middle East; were it not for the disastrous loss of our astronauts, Georgia would be on the front page of The Wall Street Journal; front page of The Washington Post; front page of The New York Times; lead story on NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox; it would be a story of Georgia being divided…on this issue, which is simply beyond…uh…beyond the pail…as a roster of divisive issues as you could possibly bring forward – this has got to be number one. 

You termed the Republican rule that has started here as “scary”; you’ve termed it as “divisive”, just during this short time. You say you have respect for Perdue, but do you, really? He’s a Republican – how is he exempt? 

Mark Taylor: Well, I…I…I won’t even begin to say that I don’t respect the people of Georgia, who simply aligned themselves with the Republican Party, or run as Republicans! That’s not the case at all! I respect people who offer… 

We’re talking about Sonny Perdue! 

Mark Taylor: I certainly respect Sonny Perdue! He has won a tremendous upset victory; he campaigned from the state legislature and won a race; he was out-funded six-to-one; he won a resounding victory; he is the Governor of Georgia; I respect our Governor. 

In previous occasions, according to lobbyists I’ve spoken to on the hill, in terms of ballot access – for independents –, which is my main focus, being an independent here on this radio station – the Democratic leadership has not been very accommodating, in terms of accepting ballot access, and letting it get off the ground; during the rule of the Democratic Party. Let me play for you, a bit, of what Mr. Perdue had to say, on his thoughts of ballot access: 

Would you support ballot access for independents out there, in the state of Georgia? 

Sonny Perdue: I’m on record as being fairly liberal toward ballot access, actually. Frankly, what we found, oftentimes, was that the Democratic majority didn’t want that ballot access. So I’m on record as being fairly liberal toward that. I’m not familiar with the resolution that you’ve described…. 

Sounds like he’s putting the ball in your court! You were a part of the Democratic leadership, and are still part of the Democratic leadership – where do you stand on ballot access? 

Mark Taylor: I have no problem with third parties, fourth parties, and fifth parties gaining access to the ballot. You’re absolutely correct; it has not been an issue we could gain consensus on. We have a very strong Libertarian Party in Georgia. I believe we have an emerging Green Party in Georgia. And, uh, it’s simply a matter of determining what level of support a party should have, based on signatures on a petition – and success at the election process…if Georgia was really a closed state, on the issue of third parties gaining access…you wouldn’t see a Libertarian candidate in every race for Governor, Lt. Governor, and United States Senator…so, I’m open…I think that the more parties on the ballot the better! 

More specifically… 

Mark Taylor: I will say that that’s not the majority opinion, in the Georgia general assembly. I don’t think it’s a Democratic or Republican issue; the fact is, that elected officials – once they win an election, they pretty much like the rules that were in place when they won their election! And they’re very hesitant, to change those rules! But I have been a voice, for saying, if you could get the number of signatures, and the number of signatures is reasonable – then your party should have access to the ballot! 

If you need signatures… 

Mark Taylor: Absolutely! You must have signatures… 

Why should we have signatures to the ballot? 

Mark Taylor: Because, you have to demonstrate, as a political party, that you have some opportunity to win an election. That you have some support; that you have organized yourself as a party! This is a tradition of a Democratic form of government that goes back 500 years! Oh no, I’m not going to let – I’m not going to support the idea, that an individual citizen can say, “I’ve formed the Gray Goose Party, and I want to be on the ballot, and I want the people of Georgia to go to the expense of printing a ballot with my name! And actually, it’s me and my pet dog that’s going to go vote for me!” 

We’re going a little long with this segment, but let me ask you – HB355 – are you familiar with the bill? 

Mark Taylor: No, sir; I am not. 

Right; it is a ballot access initiative; that is, again, coming to the legislature. So you’re saying…under no circumstances, would you provide access to the ballot, short of signatures? 

Mark Taylor: I think that a political party needs to be real. It needs to be more than a figment of someone’s imagination! 

How many signatures are we talking about? For a state election, we’re talking about 50,000 signatures, maybe? 

Mark Taylor: No…I don’t think you need that many signatures…our law is based on the number of signatures per congressional district; based on the number of people that were registered in that district, or who voted in the last election; there is no one, that I am familiar with, in the third, fourth, and fifth party movement in Georgia, that would argue that a certain number of signatures should be required! 

I want to get your quick thoughts on the predatory lending bill – there was a compromise that was proposed…it was kicked out of the committee today! What happened? 

Mark Taylor: Predatory lending is an issue we’ve been fighting for the last three years…and last year, we passed the toughest anti-predatory law in the nation, one that will definitely save the homes of elderly and poor people across Georgia; and we really thought we were on the high ground! Unfortunately, there was an effort to make some changes in the law, and right now, that effort to make a few changes, which could have been positive, has turned into a firestorm of amendments that will really, really do away with most of the consumer protections that are in the predatory lending bill. We’re going to be fighting for Senate Bill 53 – that is a great piece of legislation that will protect home owners, it will save the homes of Georgians; but it will also correct a few small problems in the law, that might, at some point, cause us to have problems in the mortgage business. 

I’m a big supporter of affordable housing; home ownership – that’s the key to the American Dream; that’s the key to financial security. We can have a vibrant home ownership environment in Georgia, and still have consumer protections. And I’m hoping this week, that the general assembly – when these bills reach the floors of the House and Senate, that they will do the right thing, and find the right balance, between consumer protection, and a good environment to buy homes! Right now, mortgages are at an all-time low! Records are being set for refinancing and home purchases. So what is the problem? Obviously, our predatory lending law is not impacting on affordable mortgages for our people! So we are really, really in a fight; and today, we lost one. 

Can losing this fight be attributed to perhaps like you said, it’s a scary and divisive time in the state of Georgia, that we’ve got to learn from, and this Republicanism? 

Mark Taylor: Well, I firmly believe that had Roy Barnes been re-elected as Governor, any effort to change the predatory lending law, would have been some minor changes that would deal with some specific, and fixable problems. But with Governor Barnes –a real expert on the issue of predatory lending – if you remember, he led the effort, as a private attorney, to run Fleet Finance out of Georgia, when they were stealing people’s homes, back in the early ‘90s… 

I remember that… 

Mark Taylor: With him gone as Governor, there was a feeling among some corners in Georgia, that this is the time to do away with this law, and go back to the bad old days of getting people to sign a home loan, with the knowledge that the person was going to be very unlikely, to pay that loan back; because of the hidden fees, and hidden charges, that added up to huge monthly payments. 

So bottom line – the Democrats can do it better… 

Mark Taylor: A-men! We can do it better! 

I’m not saying that as a fact; I’m asking a question… 

Mark Taylor: We can do it better! We do it better! We will do it better! And we definitely do better for the people of Georgia, around the issue of predatory lending. And we will! 

Okay! Let’s get a question in here from Ron. Ron thanks for holding! 

Ron: Yes, how are doing? How are you doing, Mr. Taylor? 

Mark Taylor: Great! Great! Good afternoon! 

Ron: Glad to hear that you’re on the show today. 

Mark Taylor: It’s always a pleasure! 

Ron: We had a few things that happened recently; of course you mentioned some of them – with the Democrats changing over to Republicans; Zell Miller voted a lot of what President Bush wanted; and the outcome of the 2002 midterm elections…with all that in mind, do you think there is a growing number of discontented voters out there, in the state of Georgia, and the rest of the country? Do you see a growing independent movement, perhaps, where the Democratic Party may, in fact, be losing Democrats; and the Republican Party, losing loyal Republicans? 

Mark Taylor: I certainly believe there are a lot of people – the majority of the people, who do not make their election choices based on party…there is a great middle of the electorate, that will vote for a Republican; that will vote for a Democrat – as we’ve seen in ’94, or ’92, or in ’96…people will vote for third party candidates. So an educated voter is going to be up to speed on the issues, make a choice…generally not on party, but on issues, and I think that’s fine. But the Democratic Party, I believe, firmly, is right on the issues. Right now, Georgia is an evenly divided state – around 40% of Georgians are Republicans; around 40% of Georgians are Democrats; and 20% vote for both parties. By keeping Georgia Democrats focused on better schools, safer streets, supporting law enforcement; and promoting a stronger economy through tax cuts, the Democratic Party will continue to be the majority party in Georgia! We are the majority party; every member of the Democratic ticket, other than Governor and Senator, received over a million votes; there were two new seats in Congress, available for pick-up in 2002, and the Democrats won both of those; we picked up a seat in the State House; we won the State Senate on election night, before…the Democratic Party is alive and well in Georgia! 

Right! That is the question. What happened to the Governorship? Because that’s one of the keys that you lost; in turn, you lost power and position… 

Mark Taylor: There is no question, that the Governor is the chief executive officer of the state, chief budget officer, and will make some 3500 appointments, to boards and commissions…will appoint a number of judges over the next four years…that was a very important election, and we…we simply had a situation where, the decisions that had to be made were tough ones; a lot of people were dissatisfied, by moving away from the status quo; and I will again salute Governor Perdue for being able to capitalize in a political environment! But now, it’s time to lead! Now it’s time to say that some of the things we talked about in the election, don’t make good public policy, and do not unite Georgia; 8.5 million Georgians are crying out for their political leaders to unite us! And I call on Governor Perdue again, not to divide us, over the issue of the state flag; don’t divide us over unnecessary redistricting; don’t raise taxes on the people of Georgia; let’s work together, and move the state forward! 

Obviously, he plans to do just that, through this referendum! You’re saying it’s a scary and divisive time, that’s how you’ve termed the Republicans, at least, throughout our conversation today. He says that he doesn’t plan to change the referendum, except slightly, in today’s The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

Mark Taylor: Well, I salute Governor Perdue for being willing to reassess his proposal; we don’t need a two-tiered question on the ballot that would cause some ballots not to be counted! We don’t need to disenfranchise any voter, and his original proposal would do that! If we are not successful in urging Governor Perdue not to put us through this divisive process, that’s going to put us on the lead story on CNN; that’s going to have people, extremists on both sides, causing Georgia to have unnecessary, bad publicity; then we want to urge him to change the question again! And I salute him for changing the question today; I would urge him to change the question again, and make sure no person is disenfranchised. At the very least, the voter should be able to choose between the current flag and the pre-’56 flag; and let’s be cautious in how we determine this referendum question, if we must have a referendum. 

So, you’re happy with the referendum now? 

Mark Taylor: No, I’m not happy with the referendum now! 

You keep saying you salute him for changing… 

Mark Taylor: Well, he agreed there was a problem with his original proposal. 

Right… 

Mark Taylor: And he’s proposing to make a change! I don’t think that is the ultimate answer; I think the ultimate answer is to say, “I’ve changed my mind; I don’t want a referendum.” But if he continues to push the referendum that he promised in his election then we’re going to push him to change the question again, so that we can make sure that supporters of the current flag are not disenfranchised. Hopefully, we will have a situation where Georgians can choose the present flag, or the pre-’56 flag, and not have the previous flag as an option. 

Using your words, isn’t that scary and divisive, though? 

Mark Taylor: The referendum is going to be divisive; my worst fear is that the referendum, regardless of the question, is going to divide us along race, at a time when we need to be coming together, as races in Georgia; at a time when we need to be moving forward, with a state symbol that will unite all of us, and not divide us. The referendum alone is going to be divisive, and I urge him to not call for a referendum; but if he continues to insist, that we have a referendum, there will be a referendum; and I hope my worst fears are not fulfilled; and that we are not hopelessly divided as a state. 

But at least this is better than the last one… 

Mark Taylor: I don’t…I don’t understand your question… 

But at least these questions, now, the way they are phrased, are… 

Mark Taylor: They’re slightly better! He says as long as you vote for both questions, your vote will be counted; he previously said, if you don’t vote for both, your vote won’t be counted; but I think he should go further – if he insists, again, hopefully he won’t – but if he insists on a referendum, let’s not disenfranchise any voter. And let’s make sure, that we have a result that satisfies all voters of Georgia. 

Teretha, go ahead. 

Teretha: Yes, good afternoon, Lt. Governor. Do you agree with the Governor’s proposed tax increase, specifically with the Medicaid cuts? 

Mark Taylor: I don’t agree with the tax increase to balance our budget; and I believe there is a way we could balance our budget without having the very, very severe cuts that the Governor is proposing in Medicaid. We’re going to have to do Medicaid differently, but we can do Medicaid differently without cutting eligibility and without cutting benefits. These Medicaid cuts that are being proposed have to be stopped; because they will close rural hospitals; they are causing layoffs in hospitals, right now, as we speak; that means our parents and grandparents are not receiving the kind of quality care that we would want; we can stop those cuts without raising taxes. And Democrats have a plan to do that. 

Murray, you’re up with the Lt. Governor, go ahead. 

Murray: Hi, Lt. Governor; I appreciate you being on the air! 

Mark Taylor: It’s been a pleasure! 

Murray: Yes! I wanted to clarify I have a quick question for you – something that Robert asked you about, concerning HB355 – which is the ballot access bill. You know, I appreciate what you said, a little bit of your reputation, is that you are not very pro-ballot access…I wanted to clarify that for folks that might be listening…the HB355 bill lowers the statewide ballot access from 40,000 ballot signatures (and I agree with your point about signatures) to 15,000 ballot signatures. This would bring Georgia from the sixth most restrictive state, to about the 20th most restrictive state in the Union. That’s one of the relief’s that the bill is providing…for congressional candidates, as you may know, there hasn’t been an independent party congressional candidate…even on the ballot, since 1943. Because the state laws are so restrictive… 

Mark Taylor: It’s been my pleasure, over a number of years, to work with people, who are very thoughtful; very sincere; in their attempts to improve ballot access for third, fourth, and fifth parties…in Georgia. I agree, that a situation where we haven’t had a third party congressional candidate since 1943 is wrong…and I will continue to be a voice; under the gold dome; urging – members of the House and Senate, of both parties, to look thoughtfully at the question – and I don’t know if 15,000 statewide signatures is the right number, but I will agree that 50,000 signatures is too much. So let’s find a middle ground, here…and make progress. 

Last call – Big D, you’re up! 

Big D: Uh, Lt. Governor, I’m glad you could come on down… 

Mark Taylor: Absolutely, thank you! 

Big D: But I’m going to be frank with you – the last election was abysmal! And I’m not going to vote for you guys, anymore, until you guys can get up, and come out to our community…and act and work for our votes! It was a disgrace, not to have any, very few Democratic signs for Max Cleland, or Roy Barnes, in the black community! You guys need to clean house in the Democratic Party in the state of Georgia! You have to, because it was pathetic! 

Mark Taylor: I appreciate the question – we have a new team at the Democratic Party of Georgia. We did make a conscious effort to communicate with voters through direct mail. We set a record for the amount of ads purchased on black radio; and of course, we had a huge television campaign…we did not invest in political yard signs, and we have heard that message, loud and clear – that people want to see the yard signs in their community, and I promise you that as we move forward into the 2004 elections, there will be money budgeted for yard sign campaigns. But it is still imperative, that we talk to voters about issues that Democrats have delivered for the community – and we have a phenomenal record – predatory lending, hate crimes, our leadership on the flag, and most importantly a focus of public schools that are excellent for our kids; safe communities, and a strong economy, through tax cuts, if possible. 

What’s next for you? 

Mark Taylor: A hard legislative session ahead; and three more hard legislative sessions – fighting for the people of Georgia…to carry forward on my campaign promises, which were to protect the HOPE Scholarship, to fight for child endangerment felony laws, try to bring jobs to inner city and rural Georgia, and to try and strengthen our economy. 

I understand that Mr. Barnes might get back into politics at some point. Would you run again with him? 

Mark Taylor: Well, in Georgia, we don’t run together as a ticket; I would certainly welcome his continued service in Georgia politics – he was a state senator, state representative, he was a phenomenal Governor in my book; and I hope that public service is in his future. 

Any plans for you to run for Governor? 

Mark Taylor: I hope that every little boy and little girl in Georgia dreams of being Governor of Georgia; I certainly had that dream as a child – and I hope one day to have that opportunity, to run for Governor. But right now, I’m just blessed to be Lt. Governor, and the people of Georgia will make that decision. 

Lt. Governor Mark Taylor, thank you so much, for taking out the time to speak to us; any closing words? 

Mark Taylor: It has been a pleasure to be with you, it was something you and I had been looking forward to, for a number of years…please help us, by contacting your state house members, and state senators, and urge them to fight for predatory lending laws that protect consumers; help us pass felony child endangerment SB1; help us fight for background checks, that include first offender status for our nursery workers, for our school workers, and our nursing home workers…we need your help! Take a look at our web site: www.marktaylor.com is the email address…and I will be voting for the existing state flag; and again, I hope that Governor Perdue will decide that we don’t have a referendum on the flag, once again – the legislature is the only one that can decide this! His referendum proposal is nonbinding; but not non-divisive, I’m afraid…this will fall back on the legislature; and the legislature spoke in 2001, the legislature spoke in 1956, but thank god – Georgia is a different place in 2003 than it was in 1956.