Lots of hard-core Georgia conservatives, especially the type who love the "tea party" movement and despise establishment politicians, are fans of Ray McBerry.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate strikes a strong "state's rights" stance that appealed to the "flagger" movement back when there was one, and these days continues to appeal to the anti-federal-government thread running through politics.
In short, McBerry is the outsider candidate. And one thing is certain: He will forever remain an outsider.
McBerry has lost one previous race for governor, against Sonny Perdue in the 2006 primary when he received just 12 percent of the vote. The Republican primary in July will end his run again now that he has become absolutely unelectable.
Why? Rachel Gandee.
As chronicled in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Political Insider column and in several political blogs, Georgia's Professional Standards Commission in March released information from an investigation into McBerry's tenure as a high school history teacher.
McBerry resigned in 2003 after the mother of 16-year-old Rachel Gandee filed a complaint that McBerry had an improper relationship with the 10th-grader.
Political pundits lately have been digging into McBerry's past like pigs digging acorns, and they're finding plenty. The biggest chunk to show up this past week was a seven-page, handwritten letter from McBerry to the girl and her parents.
The letter wasn't just begging their forgiveness; it was demanding it. See, McBerry at one time also was the girl's church youth leader (until the church kicked him out), and he insisted they forgive him because that's what Christians are supposed to do.
Gandee, now 24 and married, hasn't been in a forgiving mood. She opened up in tell-all interviews with the media, backing up her allegations with documentation.
The only female candidate in the governor's race reacted to the rising chorus of creepiness by announcing that she would no longer sit on the same stage with McBerry.
With the allegations getting uglier, McBerry called a press conference Monday. Instead of facing reality by resigning, McBerry demonstrated that he does, indeed, know how to be a politician.
He blamed the media.
Yep. Ample proof exists that McBerry behaved improperly with a 16-year-old girl, afterwards quit his teaching job while being investigated, got kicked out of a church and got divorced, and wrote a long, rambling letter begging forgiveness - and yet it's the media's fault?
It's a shame. McBerry was destined to lose the governor's race anyway. It's just too crowded at the top, with too many better-known and better-funded candidates.
But now his dwindling number of followers will have to swallow the frustration as he loses miserably in the primary despite saying all the things they love to hear - including that the mean ol' media had it in for him.
Considering polls have shown McBerry hitting no better than 4 percent - far below "undecided" - it might be a little difficult to persuade people that McBerry was a force needing to be stopped.
Besides: The time he needed to stop was eight years ago, when he was warned repeatedly to stay away from a teenage girl - including in an order by a judge.
If he wouldn't stop then, it's no surprise that his defiant press conference Monday was to insist his campaign will continue and to threaten legal action against anyone repeating Gandee's story.
Yeah. Good luck hiding that genie back in the bottle.
Meanwhile, the local Young Republicans club is planning a debate among Republican gubernatorial candidates at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center.
Based on Handel's recent comments, if McBerry is there, she won't be.
Handel presumably will make up for it, however, by speaking at 6 p.m. Monday at the Greater Columbia County Republican Women meeting at Jones Creek Club House.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail email@example.com.)
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