By Maria Saporta
The two top candidates for governor each spent a half hour this morning talking to the executive committee of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. And both apparently had done their homework.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes, who is the Democratic nominee, was the first one to talk to the group of about 25 business leaders at their regular monthly meeting.
His visit was then followed by former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, who is the Republican nominee for governor.
“They are both well-informed, and both of them were on their ‘A’ game,” said Rick Smith, CEO of Equifax and past chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
The chamber’s board meetings are not open to the public, but business leaders did talk about the sessions afterwards.
Of course, Barnes is more of a known entity in Atlanta’s business community from his first term as governor. But Deal, who may have had more to gain from his visit with the select group of business leaders, is quickly becoming more familiar.
“They were great, both of them,” said Bill Linginfelter, the 2010 chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the top Georgia executive with Regions Bank. “They clearly understand the issues that the state is facing. And they both had done their homework.”
Both candidates focused on the issues of greatest concern to the business leaders — transportation, water, education and economic development. And both came across as sincere and engaged.
“You’ve got two people who are passionate about the state of Georgia and want to see the state progress,” Linginfelter added. “They want us to come out of this recession positioned to do great things.”
Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, said he was reassured that neither candidate would turn one part of the state against another.
“Both talked about there’s one Georgia and not two Georgias,” Williams said. “Both candidates addressed the fact that the state is one economic unit and that metro Atlanta and the rest of Georgia have to both succeed.”
Linginfelter said that it appeared both men would be able to govern this state.
“They both sounded very, very good and both are qualified to be governor of the state of Georgia,” Linginfelter said. “They both understand the issues that we face — water, transportation, education and economic development.”