Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich threw his weight behind Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal Tuesday, calling the former congressman from Gainesville a “solid conservative with a solid record.”
Deal, who served with Gingrich in the U.S. House, responded with gratitude and said the endorsement from a well-known Georgian could carry some weight.
“It’s nice to have somebody who actually knows you be willing to stand up for you,” Deal said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Gingrich made the remarks about Deal after a Georgia Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Atlanta. He arrived wearing a Deal lapel pin.
Seven Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination in Georgia’s July 20 primary. Gingrich said he is “not against any candidate. I’m for Nathan Deal.”
Deal said Gingrich’s endorsement could sway voters who supported Gingrich but knew little of Deal before. Deal called Gingrich “one of those forward thinking visionaries on issues like health care,” saying the former speaker carried credentials most conservatives respect.
Gingrich made a video for the Deal campaign several months ago, attesting to Deal’s conservative principles.
“When they know someone and respect that person, that person’s opinion, I think, transfers support for the candidate that they’re endorsing,” Deal said.
Gingrich’s endorsement comes a day after other heavy-hitters endorsed some of Deal’s rivals in the campaign for governor. On Monday, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Karen Handel, and former president Bill Clinton endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Thurbert Baker.
Deal said his endorsement by Gingrich may hit closer to home, however.
“I have an endorsement by somebody who’s been elected by citizens in Georgia, someone who has represented interests in our state and carried the reputation to the speakership of the House. ... He does have a very distinct Georgia connection,” Deal said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.