Toccoa - Gov. Nathan Deal hasn’t endorsed either Republican in the race to succeed him, but that hasn’t stopped Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle from tethering his campaign to the outgoing governor.
Even as he steps up his embrace of President Donald Trump, Cagle is also more directly tying himself to Deal, who polls show is the most popular Republican in the state.
At a stop in Stephens County, which he carried by a hefty margin in the May primary, Cagle drew applause when talking of the “Deal/Cagle team” that has boosted business in Georgia.
“Nothing happens in isolation,” he said after his remarks. “I don’t run from being a good partner, and I don’t run from the fact that we’ve been able to do great things together. We’ve built so much to be proud of, and we want to continue the economic momentum.”
The governor has so far stayed out of the July 24 runoff between Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, though some of his top allies and donors have signed up with Cagle. His top aide, Chris Riley, has warned both candidates they’ll face a reprisal if they critique the governor’s legacy.
Both have taken the hint, and Cagle has been effusive in his praise. He’s told crowds that many of the governor’s legislative accomplishments are partly his because they couldn’t have passed without his support as president of the state Senate.
Though both Deal and Cagle launched their political careers from nearby Hall County, they’ve never been particularly close.
And while the two largely agree on many policies, they split on some of the state’s biggest debates including the “religious liberty” measure and the demise of a tax break designed for Delta Air Lines.
Then again, Deal has not exactly cozied up to Kemp. With the help of state legislators, his spending plans have slashed Kemp’s budget and shifted departments from his office’s oversight since 2011.
Other tidbits from Cagle’s weekend stop:
* Among the hosts of the Toccoa event was Rick Phillips, the well-connected financier who filed a lawsuit against Kemp claiming he owed him $500,000 for a loan for a struggling agriculture firm. Read the full story about that investment here.
* Cagle cast himself as the only Republican who could defeat Democrat Stacey Abrams in November, warning she would bring a torrent of “celebrities” to Georgia to energize liberal voters. Her campaign has already drawn several actors and TV personalities, as well as high-profile politicians.
* He emphasized the need for drug testing and work requirements as a pre-condition for some safety-net benefits. “We’ve got to get those people off the couch and back in the labor force,” said Cagle. “We are not going to let them sit there and game the system anymore.”
* The Mountain Mansion? Cagle said if he’s elected, he planned to split some of his time between his home near Gainesville and the governor’s official pad in Atlanta. “I don’t really believe we will live full time in the Governor’s Mansion,” he said to laughs. “I don’t like the air down there.”