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Gainesville last stop on Deals campaign
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Gov. Nathan Deal shakes hands with and greets supporters at the final stop of his campaign flyover. - photo by Erin O. Smith

ATLANTA — Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and his Democratic challenger Jason Carter both promised a clear win today if their supporters get to the polls.

Deal ended his fly-around tour in Gainesville, his plane landing at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport around 7 p.m. Monday to a crowd of more than 50 supporters. Throughout his time in public office, Deal has praised his hometown as the “backbone” to his campaign.

“People of this area have always been the ones that have turned out in huge numbers for me,” Deal said.

The close and often personal race between Deal and Carter, a state senator from Atlanta and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, may not be decided today. Libertarian Andrew Hunt, former CEO of an Atlanta nanotechnology firm, also is on the ballot. Georgia election law requires one candidate to get more than 50 percent of the vote, or the top two vote-getters go to a Dec. 2 runoff.

On Monday, Carter hit coffee shops, restaurants and campaign phone banks in metro Atlanta. Deal joined the GOP ticket at six out of seven party rallies around the state.

Deal began the day as only an incumbent can, announcing that information technology company Unisys plans to build a service center in Augusta and hire 700 people during the next five years. Deal also said during a news conference at the Capitol that Site Selection magazine had chosen Georgia as the top state in the country to do business for the second year in a row.

The magazine uses surveys of business site selectors and criteria including major projects and state taxes. Critics are quick to point out it does not factor in unemployment or high school graduation rates. Deal regularly relies on that ranking and others on the campaign trail.

Carter has frequently hammered Deal on the state’s unemployment rate, the highest in the country, according to federal statistics. Deal has dismissed the unemployment rate as an outlier compared to jobs added.

After visiting with patrons at an Atlanta barbershop, Carter said the timing of both announcements was “all politics.”

“The governor has been judging his success on magazine articles, but that’s not real life for Georgia families,” Carter said. “The governor talks about 700 jobs today. We lost 15,000 private-sector jobs just last month.”

Carter campaigned with civil rights icon and U.S. Rep. John Lewis. They visited volunteers at a campaign office near the campuses of three historically black colleges, then spoke to shoppers at a market in the Sweet Auburn historic district of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home.

Georgia’s demographics are trending the Democratic Party’s way long term, and Democrats hope they can bring women, minorities and other voters who don’t always cast a ballot in nonpresidential years out today. Carter and Lewis said early voting numbers are on the Democrat’s side, while Deal and his backers argued the same.

Lewis said he spoke at three churches on Sunday, and the congregations “went wild” when he told them he had voted for Carter.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of campaigns in this state, in my own races, and I have not seen it like this ever,” Lewis said. “People are tired of what they see. They know this state can do much better.”

Polls open today at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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