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Candidates prepare for Georgia gubernatorial race

DEAL+OR+NO+DEAL%3A+Republican+Gov.+Nathan+Deal+%28left%29+addressing+Georgia%E2%80%99s+response+to+January%E2%80%99s+snow+storm.+Democratic+state+Sen.+Jason+Carter+%28right%29+announced+his+candidacy+last+November%2C+and+later+critized+Deal%E2%80%99s+response+to+the+storm.
DEAL OR NO DEAL: Republican Gov. Nathan Deal (left) addressing Georgia’s response to January’s snow storm. Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter (right) announced his candidacy last November, and later critized Deal’s response to the storm.

DEAL OR NO DEAL: Republican Gov. Nathan Deal (left) addressing Georgia’s response to January’s snow storm. Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter (right) announced his candidacy last November, and later critized Deal’s response to the storm.

DEAL OR NO DEAL: Republican Gov. Nathan Deal (left) addressing Georgia’s response to January’s snow storm. Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter (right) announced his candidacy last November, and later critized Deal’s response to the storm.

Ben Simonds-Malamud

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The candidates for the 2014 Georgia gubernatorial race reported their fundraising totals at the beginning of January. According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Nathan Deal, incumbent governor and likely Republican nominee, raised about $4 million July. In the seven weeks since state Sen. Jason Carter—husband of Southerner adviser Kate Carter—entered the race, he raised $1.3 million.

“As an incumbent governor, he’s always gonna have a gigantic amount of money,” Carter said. “We will certainly get out-raised.”

DEAL OR NO DEAL: Republican Gov. Nathan Deal (left) addressing Georgia’s response to January’s snow storm. Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter (right) announced his candidacy last November, and later critized Deal’s response to the storm.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal (left) addressed Georgia’s response to January’s snow storm. Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter (right) announcd his candidacy last November, and later criticized Deal’s response to the storm.

Deal will face a primary challenger, State School Superintendent John Barge, in the July primary election.

Since no other Democrats have yet declared a run, Carter has received national attention, including a 500-word New York Times article about his decision to enter the race published Nov. 7. Michelle Nunn, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat her father, Sam Nunn, held from 1972 to 1997, has received endorsements from Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill, senators from New York and Missouri, respectively.

Michael McNeely, first vice-chair of the Georgia Republican Party, attributed the attention to Carter’s grandfather, President Jimmy Carter.

“Both [Nunn and Carter] have name ID associated with their family members,” McNeely said. “So both candidates will utilize their families and the accomplishments that they’ve had to raise money and to connect with individuals around the state.”

Christian Hurd, chair of the Georgia High School Democrats, said Carter’s and Nunn’s popularity does not come solely from their last names.

“Most of it is due to the excitement that not just their name brings,” Hurd said. “The whole heart of the party is coming back out for our state.”

In a hypothetical match-up between Deal and Carter, an InsiderAdvantage/Fox 5 poll found that 44 percent of respondents favoring Deal, 22 percent favored Carter and were 34 percent undecided. Carter did better in an AJC poll, with 38 percent of the hypothetical vote compared to Deal’s 47.

“I feel like the amount of energy that we have, the amount of support that we’ve seen and this governor’s record makes me feel great about our chances,” Carter said. “The incumbent is, frankly, weak.”

McNeely said Georgia voters view Democrats unfavorably, citing the NSA surveillance scandal. He is confident that Georgia’s conservative roots would carry the state for Republicans. Carter argues that Georgians are not as partisan as Republicans may think.

“Folks want a good government that they can trust,” Carter said. “I think at the end of the day, if we can convince voters that the forgotten middle class and the education issues are the most important, then we’ll be able to earn their support.”

Carter led a task force on education in the last session of the Georgia senate, and he has emphasized his proposals for Georgia’s education system throughout his campaign.

Deal promised in his “State of the State” address that his budget would do away with teacher furloughs and increase teacher salaries.

“One of the things that we have been able to do this year in the budget process is to put [into the education system] over half a billion dollars, the largest single infusion in the last seven years,” Deal said in an interview with Southerner correspondent Quinn Mulholland (read the interview here).

Carter’s main education proposal involves separating the education budget from the general budget.

“We get all this smoke and mirrors about how much we’re funding education,” Carter said. “Right now, the state of Georgia doesn’t make education its first budgeting priority. I think we should.”

Michael Strollo, chairman of the Georgia Teen Republicans, said that he doesn’t think Democrats will win in 2014, but he agrees that they are gaining strength.

“The only issue with that is Obamacare,” Strollo said. “I think that’s where they’re gonna be hurt the most.”

In November, Carter said he shared Georgians’ frustration with the healthcare law, calling it “a mess.”

“Georgia has always been at its best when it avoids the Washington politics that the partisan Republicans want to talk about,” Carter said.

Hurd said if the Affordable Care Act can be implemented successfully, the Republican Party will suffer losses.

“They know this is going to destroy them,” Hurd said. “That’s why they’re working so hard against it.”

McNeely acknowledged that Democrats may gain an advantage as Georgia’s minority population grows.

“As a black Republican, I’ve talked about the need for the party as a whole to engage minority communities,” McNeely said.

Strollo, of the Teen Republicans, said that to keep the Republican Party’s strong, Republicans must work harder to improve membership and to educate people about the party.

“I think if we don’t get the Republican Party back on track, then Georgia could easily become a blue state,” Strollo said.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Candidates prepare for Georgia gubernatorial race”

  1. Bill Gainey on February 3rd, 2014 10:23 pm

    Don’t forget that David Pennington, current Mayor of Dalton, GA is also challenging Governor Deal in the GOP. Check him out on Facebook and his website. Much better candidate than John Barge would ever be.

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