Brian Kemp, Republican candidate for governor and Georgia Secretary of State, was greeted by a hundred eager faces when he stepped off the bus Monday morning in Dawson County for the first stop on a weeklong campaign tour.
Local elected officials, law enforcement and emergency services personnel as well as dozens of Dawson residents gathered Oct. 1 at John Megel Chevrolet on Ga. 400 to hear from Kemp, who faces Democrat Stacey Abrams and Libertarian Ted Metz on Nov. 6.
The “Putting Georgians First” bus tour will hit 27 counties this week.
Kemp, who lives in Athens, touched on a few key topics in a brief address to the crowd, including taxes, education and law enforcement. He said if elected, he plans to support further tax cuts like the billion-dollar cut the state legislature passed earlier this year.
“I’m planning as governor to sign another tax cut to continuate that this coming year,” Kemp said.
State lawmakers cut the state income tax rate in response to the federal tax cut bill signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2017. Changes at the national level would have created a huge windfall for Georgia state government — practically creating a tax increase at the state level.
Republican lawmakers in Atlanta acted to head off the windfall by passing the state’s first income tax cut in decades, though rates for most Georgians and the revenue for state government will be close to the same as they were before the federal income tax cut.
Kemp also told the gathered supporters he plans to focus on deregulation and create an environment in the state that supports small business.
“I started my first company with a pickup truck, a shovel and a tool box,” Kemp said. “My plan is to create an environment in our state where we have less regulation, we have a low cost of doing business and low taxes.”
His plans for education include raises for teachers, less standardized testing and more local control.
“I want to expand pre-K, I want to protect the Hope Scholarship,” he said. “I want to have less testing, less state mandates, more local control when it comes to education … giving our hardworking teachers a pay raise, lowering taxes and letting them teach our children. … They know what to do in their local community a lot better than some bureaucrat in the state government or the federal government does.”
Kemp has proposed a permanent, annual teacher pay raise of $5,000, which would cost about $6 million a year. Kemp told The Times on Sept. 20 that he would also allocate funds for safety improvements through the establishment of a school safety division within the Georgia Department of Education, as well as address mental health by funding at least one support counselor in every high school.
Kemp said he also has a plan to stop and dismantle street gangs.
“We have over 70,000 street gang members here in the state of Georgia. After talking with law enforcement and prosecutors, I have come up with a plan to go after and dismantle those individuals — that is what we need to do to build off the great things that Gov. Nathan Deal and congressman (Doug) Collins have done on criminal justice reform,” Kemp said. “This is the next step. We have got to keep our families safe.”
Dawson County voted overwhelmingly Republican in November 2016, voting 85 percent for President Donald Trump with voter turnout at 71 percent. Hall County meanwhile voted 73 percent for Trump with voter turnout at 78.5 percent.
“We are in a fight of our lives right now,” Kemp said. “For the people who are saying we’ve got this in the bag, we do not. We’re in great shape, we’re going to win, but we can’t win if anybody stays at home. Don't let showing up this morning be the last thing you do for this campaign. Let it be the start.”
Other stops on the tour Monday included Pickens, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray and Whitfield counties.
Throughout the week Kemp will also be stopping by Floyd, Bartow, Haralson, Douglas, Coweta, Spalding, Sumter, Lee, Mitchell, Cook, Tift, Clinch, Coffee, Irwin, Dodge, Houston, Peach, Laurens, Washington, Richmond and Hart counties.