Casey Cagle let it be known in front of crowds in Gainesville, Jefferson and Hoschton on Monday, April 23: Clearing the Republican gubernatorial primary without a runoff is “mathematically impossible.”
The lieutenant governor laid out the facts on the ground in several drenched campaign stops during a statewide bus tour that launched in Gainesville during Monday’s downpours. The tour will crisscross the state in parts north and south before ending on May 4 at Fort Oglethorpe in Northwest Georgia — five days into the start of early voting for the primary.
Even though he’s holding onto a huge fundraising advantage, Cagle returned multiple times to the idea on Monday that a runoff is unavoidable during the bus tour stops on Monday, which were attended by The Times.
Key election dates
Registration deadline: Close of business April 24
Early voting: Starts April 30
Primary: May 22
Last day to mail an absentee primary ballot: May 18
General election: Nov. 6More info: Hall County Elections Office
With seven names on the ballot, Cagle reckons there’s no way he’ll end primary day on May 22 with more than 50 percent of the vote — the threshold needed to fend off a one-on-one challenger in the race to replace Gov. Nathan Deal. Former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and former state Rep. Stacey Evans are facing off in the Democratic primary.
Cagle’s runoff talk Monday might be red meat to his challengers. A runoff has been the oft-discussed goal for the other Republicans in the primary — former state Sen. Hunter Hill, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, former tech executive Clay Tippins, teacher Marc Urbach and Sen. Michael Williams, R-Cumming — who in their campaigning have acknowledged that a runoff with Cagle is the only way to make it into the general.
Based on the polling in the race so far, that No. 2 spot appears to be filled by Hill, who has taken the most attacks in the primary up to this point behind Cagle himself and has been dogged by attacks on his record on gun rights.
None of those attacks have come from Cagle. With more than a decade in statewide office and an ecosystem of connections in Atlanta, the lieutenant governor and his campaign have so far avoided getting into scrapes with any candidates — outside of some Twitter sniping in response to attack ads.
Instead, as voting begins on Monday, April 30, the Cagle campaign is heading into a new stage of the race: boosting turnout.
With more than $4.53 million on hand in the March reporting period, Cagle had more than three times more funding in the bank than any other candidate.
Between the bus tour, television and online advertising and get-out-the-vote phone banks and canvassing, that money is going to be flowing out from Cagle’s headquarters in Atlanta and into Georgia voting precincts in a big way for the next month.
Ads are getting dumped into the Albany, Atlanta, Augusta, Chattanooga, Columbus, Jacksonville, Macon, Savannah and Tallahassee markets in the coming days, according to Cagle’s campaign, and while that’s going on Cagle will hit lunches, breakfasts, GOP meetings and a host of other stops on his bus tour.
And the runup to early voting started at the Longstreet Cafe in Gainesville, where a crowd of about 50 people listened to Cagle be introduced by Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch.
Then it went to the Jefferson House diner, where Jackson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Crow, a catfish farmer, talked with Cagle about the county’s desire for a college and career academy in its school system.
From there, the tour went to Braselton and Hoschton, where billionaire Don Panoz waited to host the candidate in his sports car museum and showroom.
After that, it was off away from Hall County, to corners of the state to remind people, with a big, red bus, of a name they’ve heard once or twice in the past dozen years: Casey Cagle.