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Deal tour hits Augusta, Statesboro, then home
Gainesville Republican flying around Georgia on last day before primary
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The Deal tour
9 a.m. — Dalton Municipal Airport, Dalton
10:30 a.m. — Columbus Municipal Airport, Columbus
11:30 a.m. — Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, Albany
12:45 p.m. — Middle Georgia Regional AIrport, Macon
2 p.m. — Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, Savannah

3 p.m. — Daniel Field, Augusta
4 p.m. — Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport, Statesboro
5:45 p.m. — Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport, Gainesville

EDITOR'S NOTE: Reporter Ashley Fielding is traveling today with Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal as he flies around the state to meet supporters and media on the last day before Tuesday's primary election. She will file updates from each stop along the tour. The tour is now headed for Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville. The plane is expected about 5:45 p.m.

In the absence of television cameras, Gainesville's hometown Republican candidate took a little more time to talk to family in Statesboro Monday afternoon.

The Southeast Georgia town was the penultimate stop on Deal's tour around Georgia one day before the Republican primary.

Here, Deal repeated the same message he'd told at seven previous stops around the state. The stop wasn't meant so much for the media, and the delivery was more personal, as most of the 40-odd people around him were in some way family.

"Nathan must have a zillion cousins in Statesboro," Thelma Kilpatrick, Deal's first cousin on his mother's side said.

Both Deal's parents come from the area.

For that reason, most of those gathered around Deal in the Statesboro airport said support was high for the former congressman in Statesboro.

After he gave his regular spiel, Deal spent some 20 minutes catching up with relatives before boarding the plane to Gainesville.

"Statesboro and Bulloch County is loaded with his relatives and we love him," said Kilpatrick.

If the hopes of the Nathan Deal camp were in any way deflated by an earlier visit to Savannah, a stop in Augusta certainly put the wind back in the sails of the Republican gubernatorial candidate's last-chance tour around Georgia.

Here, Deal may have attracted as many as 40 people, many of them anchors of the local Republican cause.

State Sen. Bill Jackson introduced Deal, calling Deal a "stable" candidate.

"When we get to Atlanta with this good man we will stabilize," Jackson said.

Jackson assured those listening that the former congressman would be the best governor over the state's education system in a troubling economy.

Deal, in turn, promised that he would be teachers' "best friend" and would work cooperatively with teachers to find plausible solutions to the state's education funding problems.

Supporters were few for Nathan Deal in Savannah where former state Sen. Eric Johnson reigns in the Republican race for governor.

Deal arrived at the Savannah airport at about 1:45 p.m. to one television news crew and four supporters who held signs bearing his name.

Lesa Adams, an Eatonton resident who does business in Savannah, was one of those four supporters. Adams brought with her a donation from her uncle in Palmetto, presenting it to Deal after he finished a brief interview with a WTOC reporter.

In front of the camera, Deal said it was important to deepen the harbor outside the Savannah port.

It was exactly what Chris Rawlins, who along with Adams owns a warehousing business in the Savannah area, wanted to hear.

"That's probably the single biggest thing," Rawlins said of the promises he was seeking from a gubernatorial candidate.

Making a bold statement in a Macon airport, Nathan Deal promised to resolve a 20-year long dispute over water between Georgia, Florida and Alabama in his first term if elected to governor.

Arriving in Macon at 12:30, Deal boasted his endorsements by conservative congressmen, touting his voting record in Congress.

"Republicans are beginning to recognize that I am the true conservative in this race," said Deal.

One reporter asked how Deal could get moderates to vote for him. Deal said moderates, conservatives and liberals could come together on the need to improve the state's job market.

"I recognize we need jobs in Georgia, but I'm not just going to go around saying that," said Deal. "...I believe that everybody, moderate conservative liberal knows that we need to grow jobs or we're not going to have a very bright future in Georgia."

Again, the airport was a hot-spot for last-minute candidate activity. Former state Sen. Eric Johnson finished addressing reporters just before Deal arrived. Former Secretary of State Karen Handel was expected later in the day.

As Deal left, supporters chanted "We want Deal!"

By the time the Deal campaign's plane landed in Albany at 11:30 a.m., the afternoon heat had already arrived.
So had lunch.

But before he could eat, Deal addressed some 20 people gathered inside the airport, calling for immigration reform and telling reporters that yes, he would support an immigration policy like the one put forward by the governor of Arizona.

But as one reporter turned the focus to local crime, which the reporter said was mostly committed by locals and not immigrant farm workers, Deal's message shifted for the first time in the tour.

Deal said that the state's next governor would need to find a way to treat criminals who were mentally ill or had addictions to alcohol and drugs.

Boarding them in jails repeatedly, Deal said, was too expensive.

"We can't just keep locking people up, then turning them out and locking them up again," Deal said.

Following an introduction by his former congressional colleague Lynn Westmoreland, Nathan Deal took his message to Columbus Monday morning.

Flanked by college buddies, relatives and other supporters, Deal told reporters that his campaign was peaking at just the right time.

"We're feeling good," he said.

At a previous stop in Dalton, the campaign received word that a new poll, conducted by InsiderAdvantage, has Deal ranked at second in the gubernatorial primary.

The Columbus stop was the first of the day outside of Deal's congressional comfort zone. Reporters waiting for him at the airport were mostly interested in what Deal had to offer the middle West Georgia constituency.

"What they will get is an understanding of the variety and diversity of this great state," Deal said. "...I have the geographical diversity within my own background."

At Deal's side in Columbus was longtime friend Bill Moore, who said he first met the gubernatorial candidate as a freshman in college. Moore, the county attorney for Chattahoochee County, said voters in the Columbus area were concerned about immigration and the economy.

He said he thought it was likely that Muscogee County would vote Republican on Tuesday.

The Columbus Airport would see at least three more candidates by the day's end. But Robinson, Deal's director of communications, felt Westmoreland's appearance with Deal bolstered Deal's "conservative street cred" with area Republicans.

"That's juice," Robinson told Deal as they walked out of the airport to board the plane bound for Albany.

Arriving a few minutes early to Dalton's airport Monday morning, Nathan Deal was greeted by local government leaders, retired state employees and other supporters, one of whom welcomed him with a "Morning, Governor."

Here, Deal is well-known and has a number of long-time supporters. Dalton falls into the western boundary of the former congressman's House district.

As Deal waited for representatives of a Chattanooga television news station to arrive at the airport, Dalton mayor David Pennington spoke with the candidate about the local economy. He told Deal there was a need to refocus the economy on manufacturing.

Later, in front of reporters, Deal addressed the city's manufacturing industry, saying Georgia needs a governor who understands it. Following an introduction from state Sen. Jeff Mullis, Deal promised that, if elected, he would support abolishing sales taxes for manufacturers' energy use.

He encouraged those listening to view his plan to create jobs in Georgia on his website, calling it the only Republican proposal with "meat on the bones."

"Anybody can say they want to be the jobs governor," Deal said of former state Sen. Eric Johnson's campaign mantra.

Also a Republican candidate for governor, Johnson's media stop in Dalton overlapped with Deal's Monday visit to the city. As Deal finished talking to supporters at the Dalton airport, Johnson's plane parked alongside Deal's.

The two met at the narrow airport doorway, and Deal was halfway past Johnson before the former state Sen. Majority Leader tapped him on the shoulder. Deal acknowledged his opponent with a cordial "Hey Eric!" before turning back to board his plane for Columbus.

Johnson, a Savannah architect, has consistently polled in fourth place throughout the campaign. His numbers have, however, improved in recent weeks.

Hoping to garner as much attention and support in his final day on the campaign trail before Tuesday's Republican primary, Nathan Deal boarded a plane shortly after 7 a.m. Monday with his wife Sandra before either one had finished eating breakfast.

Thirty minutes later, Deal was met by some 15 cheering supporters bearing signs at Peachtree-Dekalb Airport near Atlanta.

Representatives of the city's main television news stations waited beyond the supporters armed with cameras and microphones.

In a brief statement, Deal repeated the mantra that he's held onto in this last stretch of the primary campaign, calling himself more conservative than Secretary of State Karen Handel and a better opponent for the assumed Democratic nominee than the state's Commissioner of Insurance.

Both are assumed to be his top opponents in Tuesday's primary election.

"Roy Barnes will have a field day if John Oxendine is the nominee," the former congressman from Gainesville said.

The airport fly-around has become a tradition for politicians on the day before an election. Also today, Handel and Barnes are also flying from airport to airport trying to drum up last minute support.

In a brief question-and-answer session, the Atlanta reporters asked about allegations from Handel that Deal's recent campaign literature had been sexist. Handel received an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin last week. A few days later, the Deal campaign issued a release titled "Real Women Support Nathan Deal."

Deal briefly paused and laughed before answering the question. He dismissed Handel's allegation as a desperate last-minute attempt.

"That is one of the most absurd things I've ever heard," Deal said.

Repeating his defense that the word "Real" has been used as a brand in nearly all his campaign materials since Deal stepped foot on the gubernatorial campaign trail last year, Deal also told reporters he had a wife of 44 years and a number of women in his family.

"If there was any sexist bone in my body it would be broken many times over," Deal told the press.

Like other candidates reaching the 11th hour of the campaign, Deal is traveling the state today seeking last-minute exposure.

The campaign will stop at nine airports in the anchors of the state's media outlets throughout the day. Deal's next stop is Dalton.

"Nathan's a conservative and he can win," said Brian Robinson, the communications director for Deal's campaign. "That's our message today."


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