For Hall County voters, the July 24 runoff between gubernatorial candidates Brian Kemp and Casey Cagle is both local and national.
Cagle, the state’s current lieutenant governor, is from Chestnut Mountain in South Hall County. Kemp, Georgia’s Secretary of State, is from Athens. Both have campaigned in Hall County. And if Cagle is elected, he would be the second consecutive governor from Hall — Gov. Nathan Deal has strong ties to Gainesville and previously represented Georgia’s 9th District.
Matt Smith, the chairman of the Hall County Republican Party, said many of the local party’s members will spend Tuesday evening at campaign events for the candidate with whom they have been working throughout the election.
“A lot of people have gotten very involved with these campaigns, especially having a local candidate and both candidates being fairly local on the gubernatorial side,” Smith said.
Smith said he thinks Cagle has an edge in his home county.
“I think that you always have somewhat of a homefield advantage if you’ve done well as an incumbent,” Smith said. “I think some people in the county feel like Casey has a good record of trying to make some decisions that have helped out his hometown and county.”
The Hall County Republican Party conducted a straw poll at its picnic July 14, and the results narrowly favored Cagle. Of the 175 people who voted in the poll, 94 preferred Cagle, 76 chose Kemp and five were still undecided, according to the party’s Facebook page.
Carolyn Garrison of Alto, who was voting early last week at the Hall County Government Center, said Thursday that Cagle’s connections to Hall may have given him a boost with local voters at the beginning of the election, but that trust faded as the campaign became more contentious. Mudslinging got in the way, and she said she believes voters are frustrated with politics as usual.
“People are ready for a change. They’re tired of the same old, same old in politics,” she said.
Keith Garrison agreed, saying Cagle’s campaign ads did not focus on the important issues.
“All I want to know is what you stand for. I don’t want to know what went on 20 years ago,” he said.
Kimberly Pils, the first vice chair of the Hall County Republican Party, said the local party has been working to help educate voters on the issues and where the candidates stand. Learning about the candidates’ records can help voters make informed decisions, she said.
“The only way to tell what a person’s future actions will be is based on their past actions,” Pils said.
Irma Turnipseed of Clermont, also voting early last week, said voters should focus on candidates’ policy positions, but this can be difficult when candidates attack each other too much.
“If each politician would just bring out the best in themselves and not sling so much mud, I think it would just be a cleaner race and people would just make up their own minds without having to sift through all that’s been said,” Turnipseed said.
Some 4,510 voters showed up to vote early in Hall.
The race also attracted the attention of President Donald Trump, who on Wednesday endorsed Kemp. Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence campaigned for Kemp at a rally in Macon.
Smith said Georgia’s status as an economic and transportation center makes it an influential state on the national political scene.
“Georgia is an important state. … We’re a good state to keep red, and I think it gets a lot of attention on that end,” Smith said.
Smith said the growth the state has experienced during Deal’s administration has led people to watch the race for his successor closely.
“I think we’ve become a state that a lot of other states look at,” he said.
The winner of Tuesday’s runoff election will face Democrat Stacey Abrams in November.