Sunday, July 16, 2006


"He's not gonna call you back." So predicted Reginald Pugh, when I told him I'd asked his State Senate opponent Ed Harbison for an interview. It turns out Harbison did NOT, but one of his aides did. Does that earn him half-credit?

It actually was Reginald Pugh's campaign which contacted us first, saying the State Senate challenger was willing to be interviewed for your blog. This meant one of two things. Either this blog has "arrived" as an established news source and influential voice in the Columbus area - or somebody's campaign is desperate for any attention it can get.

This is Reginald Pugh's first attempt for public office - and he admitted to me he's been struck by how some powerful people want to "hurt you professionally, they want to hurt your family...." Pugh refused to name any names. But if your church pastor has Ed Harbison fliers in the bulletin today, he's probably one of them.

My first big question for Reginald Pugh was based on last week's front-page newspaper quote from his opponent. Had Pugh stopped harassing Ed Harbison - and if so, when did he stop?

"I haven't been harassing him," Pugh told me. But perhaps Harbison feels that way, because Pugh and his campaign staff have brought up all sorts of negative things about the incumbent. To hear the Pugh team talk, Harbison taught Danae Roberts all about pretending to live in the district you represent.

"He's living in Atlanta more than he lives in Columbus," Pugh claimed. Yet a check of the phone book shows not one, but two home listings for an Ed or Edward Harbison. The one who's NOT a State Senator must really feel harassed....

The Reginald Pugh campaign has attempted to challenge the entire life story of Ed Harbison in recent days. One e-mail to the blog, clearly from a Pugh supporter, accused Harbison of claiming five tours of duty in Vietnam despite only serving four years in the Marines. Not even Marshal Greg Countryman brought up the military issue, when he ousted record-padder Ken Suddeth.

In contrast, Reginald Pugh was a "Vietnam-era veteran" - although he never actually served there. He also says he had orders to go to Kuwait in 1991, but the fighting there ended so quickly that he wasn't needed there. What DID the former President Bush do right then, that his son isn't doing now?

But I digress: then there's the ethics complaint which was filed this past week, involving Ed Harbison's campaign contributions. Harbison suggested in a Friday night TV interview someone in the Reginald Pugh campaign filed that complaint. He should be thankful Pugh's campaign doesn't have his college transcript.

"He tells a lot of lies," Reginald Pugh told me about Ed Harbison - going on to say the veteran State Senator "doesn't have any integrity." So it was a bit surprising to read Pugh's campaign finance report, and not see Cathy Cox's name on it.

We interviewed Reginald Pugh before we learned from The Courier that Reginald Pugh was late in filing a "personal finance disclosure statement" with the state. In fact, he's several months late - as if he's waiting for that big lottery check to come, and change everything.

The Courier also reported Reginald Pugh was late in filing a campaign finance report for the second quarter - but Friday's Ledger-Enquirer had the numbers. When you've raised about $10,000, a $75 fine for late filing is no big deal. It's a bit like pro football players hiding cell phones behind the goal post.

Ed Harbison's campaign has received about three times more donations than Reginald Pugh's - and the Harbison donors read like a roll call of corporate Columbus. AFLAC has given. Synovus has given. Yet the scoffers say Pugh's the one who's been hob-nobbing with Republicans....

Reginald Pugh explained that issue by saying his board at the Urban League has both Democrats and Republicans on it. "I deal with people. I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat." Maybe Pugh should have cared when he filed for State Senate - because a lot of Republicans might have voted for him.

(Pugh went on to say he has no problems with Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. It almost leaves you wondering why Zell Miller hasn't come to Columbus, to give Pugh a personal endorsement.)

Yet Reginald Pugh's position at the Urban League became a campaign issue this past week, when Ed Harbison complained to the Election Board about the group's "free rides to the polls." You know, I'm starting to see Harbison's point on this. Civil rights groups are known for demanding contributions at times like that....

Reginald Pugh responded by saying the Columbus Urban League has been providing free rides to the polls for 35 years, as a community service. But he admitted he said "100 years" to the Ledger-Enquirer, admitting that was an "exaggeration." Pugh should learn the Miranda rule of campaigns - anything you say can and will be used against you.

Reginald Pugh went on to say voters are NOT told which candidates to select during the free rides to polls. Pugh added he's offered to let Ed Harbison's campaign cooperate with the service, and even ride along - but "no one's called me back." Oh, so THAT'S where the harassment started....

Beyond the personal pokes, Reginald Pugh says you should compare his record with Ed Harbison's before you vote on Tuesday. So I asked Pugh about education - and his main answer involved spending more on schools, and less on imprisoning the "mentally ill." How more money will keep students from becoming mentally ill, he didn't exactly say.

Reginald Pugh also said Georgia's lottery for education program needs to be reviewed, to see if the money is being used for the best purposes. When 30 percent of the state's students fail to graduate from high school, maybe the HOPE scholarship needs to start a few years earlier.

By comparison, Reginald Pugh says Ed Harbison boasts of sponsoring a lot of legislation - but "anybody can sponsor something." Yes, absolutely. And if someone would like to become an advertising sponsor for this blog, please write me....

Ed Harbison told the Friday night interview he's been a "work horse" for District 15. For instance, he said he "put the call boxes on I-185." Harbison did not explain why that experiment hasn't been adopted anywhere else in the state -- or if it's a subtle hint to the Harris County Sheriff to spend more time patrolling the interstate.

Reginald Pugh's attacks have failed to persuade some people and groups in Columbus. This week's edition of The Courier endorses Ed Harbison for reelection, lists several areas of service and grant-winning - and faults Pugh for not returning ITS phone calls.

"We view Pugh as uninformed," The Courier says in its editorial endorsement. I'm not so sure about that. Reginald Pugh seems to know an awful lot - and it's about Ed Harbison, and it's not very complimentary.

P.S. The aide from "Friends of Ed Harbison" who returned our call apparently wanted to check our blog, before Harbison decided whether or not to submit to an interview. He made sure of the Internet address - but when we mentioned we'd talked with Pugh "about 90 minutes ago," he somehow thought it was a 90-minute interview. Normally I don't have time to write THAT many jokes.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on the State Senate race ended Saturday night, with Reginald Pugh receiving 81 percent of the vote over Ed Harbison (13-3). We'd like to thank everyone at the Urban League office who have been reading our blog in the last few days....

(We should take pains to note this is a nonscientific survey. One of these days, we're going to ask voters how many of them actually are scientists.)

Now a quick check of other items from the weekend:

+ The evening news returned to Talbot County, and found a rundown recreation center remains locked seven months after a cleanup was promised. Commissioner Robert Lanier actually said on camera: "I've got an election coming up, and I'm asking you: please, please don't show those ugly poo-poo pots again." How shocking - to hear an elected official not say "commode."

+ The soul group Pretty Ricky performed at the Columbus Civic Center. The members appeared live on WRBL - and they puzzled me, because none of them looked like Ricky Martin at all.

(When you're doing a live interview in a TV studio and your entire group is wearing sunglasses, does this mean you look cool? Or are you hiding your identity from someone in law enforcement?)

+ Prosecutors in the Coca-Cola trade secret case revealed they used wiretaps, and the three suspects used code names. I'll assume the female suspect used the name "Wild Cherry."

+ The Columbus Catfish lost to Augusta 8-5, before Golden Park's biggest crowd in years. The attendance of 4,838 was so big the Catfish actually may put an attendance figure on the official box score - because I've seen several recently where they didn't.

(When you can hear a Golden Park crowd cheering the Catfish from blocks away, you can usually guess the reason for it. My guess was right Saturday night - the stands were filled with Fort Benning soldiers.)

+ Instant Message to the children who rode their bicycles east on Macon Road in the westbound lanes: You're in the wrong lanes of traffic, with one of you sitting on another biker's handlebars, you're heading toward Cross Country Plaza a bit before sundown -- and then you tell ME to shut up? Which SUV driver on the J.R. Allen Parkway taught you that one?

COMING MONDAY: E-mail about air conditioning and water departments....

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