imageNathan Deal, the ethically-challenged Republican and U.S. Congressman, attacked both the gay group YouthPride and Karen Handel, one of his opponents in the Georgia governor’s race, in a campaign statement Monday.

Deal’s criticism came in response to Handel – herself just shy of being called a liar by the AJC for her recent statements on her LGBT track record – being endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. John Oxendine, the state’s anti-gay insurance commissioner who’s carrying his own heavy ethics baggage in his campaign for governor, also blasted Handel on gay issues.

Is it any surprise the hotly contested primary is next Tuesday?

Here’s what happened: Palin stepped into the fray of the GOP primary by taking to Facebook and backing Handel for governor.

I’m proud to lend my support to a great commonsense conservative woman running for Governor this year in the Peach State. My recent visit back to this beautiful area allowed me to meet more of the patriotic Americans who call Georgia home and who are ready for a reformer to help strengthen their families, businesses, state and, ultimately, our United States.

Deal (top photo) and the Ox, apparently stung by being spurned by Palin, fired back at Handel (second photo) and used the occasion to throw some red meat to conservative voters.

imageFirst, Deal:

It’s disappointing that Sarah Palin has chosen to back the most liberal Republican in this race.

In past races, Karen Handel endorsed taxpayer-funded domestic partner benefits and gay adoption — and she’s been caught lying about it. Just last night, Handel finally admitted she’d written a check to a gay rights group — when previously she said the check was a forgery and she never lived at that address.

“As Fulton Commission chair, Handel voted to give taxpayer dollars to “Youth Pride” which did outreach to gay and “questioning” kids as young as 13 and funded seminars such as “Unsung Heroes of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community” – this was during a budget crisis.

“We do hope that the former governor will look at the record and reconsider, or explain to conservative Georgia Republican primary voters why she’s endorsing Handel in light of these well-documented facts and Handel’s clumsy effort to cover them up.”

Then the Ox added his two cents, too, in the form of a female narrator in a new campaign commercial:

Know who this is? Under her leadership, Fulton County’s budget skyrocketed. She gave almost a half-million dollars to an abortion provider. And supported tax-payer benefits for gay couples. Sounds like a liberal Democrat. It’s the Karen Handel you didn’t know.

For her part, Handel has been put on the defensive in the campaign as her record of being gay-friendly during her campaigns for the Fulton County Commission surfaced. Handel has backed away from that past – a move that earned her the label of “Pants on Fire!” from the AJC’s PolitiFact and rebukes from the Log Cabin Republicans that she supported in 2002 and 2003. (Handel took a politically hard-right turn in 2006 when she later ran and won the race for Secretary of State.)