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2018 governor’s race ready to take off with field of 7
Georgians will cast first votes for leader to replace Deal in 6 months
09282017 STATE CAPITOL
Georgia's state Capitol in Atlanta. - photo by Associated Press

With Roy Moore and the Alabama Senate race dominating political news, Georgia’s gubernatorial race has been developing away from the spotlight.

It’s soon to be decision time for Georgia voters: The Peach State is six months out from its party primaries and less than one year away from the general election of its next governor.

Republicans and Democrats will cast their first votes for Georgia’s next governor in the May 22 state primary. The general election is set for Nov. 6.

With Gov. Nathan Deal finishing his second and final term in office, candidates in the Republican field have only grown more numerous as politicians and businessmen see their first shot, without an incumbent standing in their way, at the state’s top office in eight years. There are now five candidates running for the GOP nomination.

Meanwhile, in the Democratic primary, two Democratic leaders from the Georgia House of Representatives have had the race to themselves since they filed in May.

Among all candidates in both parties, transportation infrastructure and education have been top issues. Causes like rural broadband have been used to boost support among small-town Georgia, while MARTA expansion, road construction in metro Atlanta and port development in Savannah have dominated metropolitan economic platforms.

With a strong or improving economy in much of the state after the Lost Decade, candidates are debating how to best use state resources and how to capitalize on growth — and in some cases, who can spend the right amount of money on the best state programs.

Republicans

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle

Cagle, from Hall County, has spent the past dozen years as Georgia’s second-in-command. In a Republican Party now led by President Donald Trump, Cagle is running what is by comparison a moderate’s campaign focusing on economic development, education and infrastructure development.

With the strongest name recognition and time in statewide office, Cagle built up an early fundraising lead that has allowed him to hire a large staff and launch tours around the state, including a late-summer bus tour through North Georgia.

Outside of his campaign launch and fundraising news, Cagle hasn’t spent much time in the news since he signed up to run in April. 

But the next fundraising report comes due in January — when the next session of the Georgia General Assembly begins — which will tell whether Cagle has held on with his multimillion-dollar lead over other candidates while he’s been making the rounds in Georgia.

State Sen. Hunter Hill

The Atlanta state senator is a retired Army Ranger who, after leaving the service, started a consulting business training business executives.

In his policy positions, Hill is running the campaign of a pre-Trump conservative Republican, focusing on limited-government constraint and creating room for the free market in Georgia. He raised the third-most cash as of July in the Republican field and still made it over the million-dollar mark.

Like Cagle, Hill hasn’t spent much time in the news since jumping into the race at the end of April, but in late October announced that he had organized volunteers in every Georgia county and appointed captains in all congressional districts in the state. He’s made multiple trips to Hall County and Gainesville to speak to Republican and conservative groups.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp

Kemp, from Athens, has been Georgia’s secretary of state for seven years after getting his start as a state senator representing his hometown.

Presenting himself as an anti-regulation Republican and populist on the side of rural Georgia, Kemp has maintained a relatively small campaign staff while racking up endorsements, and publicizing them, from local leaders and figures from around the state, including in Hall County. 

He had the second-largest fundraising haul as of July. In recent weeks, he’s fielded some controversy as secretary of state for his office’s handling of election equipment in the midst of a lawsuit from election-monitoring organizations.

Kemp has lined up a high-dollar fundraiser in Gainesville in late November, which will make for his second trip to the area.

Clay Tippins

Tippins, a former Navy seal and tech executive, is the latest entrant to the Republican race. The Gwinnett County native has never run for elected office and is pitching himself as “positive disruption” in a field of politicians.

He lives in Atlanta and is an executive vice president for the consulting firm Capgemini. 

Tippins filed to run in September and has had few public appearances since entering the race, but he wouldn’t be the first business executive without political experience to win statewide office in Georgia.

State Sen. Michael Williams

A former business owner and current state lawmaker from Cumming, Williams has modeled his guerrilla campaign for governor on Trump’s successful run for the GOP nomination and then the presidency.

Williams has run a mostly self-funded campaign and courted controversy from the early days of his run, when he announced a press conference alleging “reprehensible actions” by Cagle that ended up being mocked by other Georgia politicians and pundits. 

Since then, he’s made a habit of issuing strongly worded press releases about state and national news, including a giveaway of a bump stock — the device used in the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 — to supporters amid support from some national Republicans, including the National Rifle Association, for banning the stocks.

But his most attention-grabbing move came when he protested a teacher at River Ridge High School in Cherokee County who demanded students in her classroom change their pro-Trump T-shirts.

The teacher was reprimanded by school officials, but Williams demanded she be fired. She later resigned and Williams issued a celebratory statement, calling it a “major victory” for his campaign.

Democrats

Stacey Abrams

Abrams is an Atlanta attorney and most recently was the leader of the House Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives. She resigned as a state representative in August to focus on her run for governor.

She was the first woman to serve as leader of a minority party in the Georgia House, and she led the Democratic fundraising race in July, but also spent among the most of any candidate in the race in the campaign’s early days.

In the Democratic primary, the two contenders have fought to collect endorsements from prominent members of the party and groups. Abrams has landed the approval of labor group AFL-CIO and liberal blog and political group Daily Kos.

In her run, she’s proposed state funding of universal pre-kindergarten and child care. She was scheduled to visit Gainesville in September, but her event was canceled because of Tropical Storm Irma.

State Rep. Stacey Evans

Evans, who was raised in Ringgold, is also an attorney and represents the Atlanta area in the Georgia House. She’s positioning herself as a true progressive in her run for governor, advocating for an expanded role for state government while the state is enjoying economic growth. 

With a sympathetic personal story, Evans has built her campaign around the HOPE scholarship, which paid for her education and to which she wants to dedicate significantly more funding.

She spoke to the Hall County Democrats in October, where she supported raising the minimum wage, decriminalizing marijuana and stiffer anti-discrimination legislation for Georgia.

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