Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has added fighting poverty to his gubernatorial pitch.
In his first public event in Gainesville since launching his campaign in May, Cagle spoke to an audience of more than 200 people during a meeting at the Kiwanis Club of Gainesville at the First Baptist Church on Green Street about his campaign.
On policy, Cagle gave what was for the most part his stump speech: Build out infrastructure (including tunneling under Atlanta, building suspended roads and harnessing the port in Savannah), expand alternative education opportunities and continue workforce development programs from the state.
But new this time around was a discussion about how the state should use its accelerating economic growth to help the poor.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 17 percent of Georgia’s population lives below the federal poverty level, which sits at about $12,000 of annual income for an individual and $28,780 for a family of five.
Hall County’s poverty rate is an estimated 16.9 percent, but some counties are dealing with rates in the high 20s and 30s and, in the most extreme cases, poverty rates of more than 40 percent.
“I can tell you fundamentally that metro Atlanta, certainly in our area, we’re seeing great economic prosperity,” Cagle told the Kiwanis Club. “But you can go to Sen. Tyler Harper’s area or Sen. Greg Kirk’s area in Sumter County and Ocilla, and you’ll see they’re losing population.”
Close to the end of his remarks, Cagle reminded the audience from Gainesville’s business community, elected officials and government employees that “this poverty issue is real.”
He said that 25 percent of Georgia children live in poverty.
Cagle proposed “sound public policies” and the need for providing a helping hand from the state and communities to those in poverty, especially children.
“These individual kids are going to need to have a community resource center built around them, to where if they’re coming out of a family that has no parental involvement, where we can get mentors in there to help those (children), if it’s food, if it’s clothing — all of those things,” Cagle said. “I’m talking to one of the greatest civic organizations in the world. You are part of a commitment and a desire to serve.
“Imagine if we all, collectively, took on this challenge of solving poverty and giving kids the skills that they need and an opportunity for a better way of life.”
Cagle is fresh from an announcement just more than a week ago that he’s raised $2.7 million in the gubernatorial race, much of it coming from Atlanta and individuals and groups working around the Capitol. The fundraising haul puts him far ahead of the next-closest candidate, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican who raised $1.7 million.
Also in the Republican race thus far are state Sens. Hunter Hill and Michael Williams.
Rep. Stacey Abrams, the state House minority leader, and Rep. Stacey Evans have entered the race on the Democratic side.