Brian Kemp speaks during the Georgia Chamber of Commerce's Congressional Luncheon. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Georgia 2018: Kemp tries to shore up small biz support 

Corporate powers may be squeamish about Brian Kemp, but the Republican candidate for governor aimed Wednesday to show that small businesses were rallying behind him.

The secretary of state held an event at Monday Night Brewing to tout the endorsement of the National Federation of Independent Business and issue broad promises to cut taxes if he’s elected governor.

He also took a swipe at Democrat Stacey Abrams by singling out her proposal for a $10 million annual small business financing program, which is part of a broader jobs plan she’s outlined in an economic tour over the last two months.

He called his opponent’s financing program a “joke” that wouldn’t improve the state’s business climate.

“There are plenty of banks that have capital and know the market better than some government bureaucrat. We need to let them do their business,” he said. “We don’t need to do anything out of the box here.”

Kemp has been trying to shore up his pro-business credentials since winning the GOP nomination, and he’s recently tweaked his position on “religious liberty” legislation that’s opposed by Abrams and abhorred by many powerful corporate interests.

Abrams spokeswoman Priyanka Mantha said his position would “destroy Georgia’s reputation as a destination for business while also crippling home-grown small business.”

At Wednesday’s event, Kemp said he’s committed to cutting regulations and slashing taxes, but offered no specifics other than saying he would explore cutting the state’s income tax rate. 

“I want to have broad-based tax reform, and the problem is up until the last year that hasn’t been done,” said Kemp, who was referring to a 2018 law that cuts the top income tax rate from 6 percent to 5.5 percent over two years.  

“I want to have a comprehensive discussion on real tax reform after we implement a state spending cap.”

Other takeaways from the event:

  • On trying to reach undecided voters: 

“I had to fight through a lot of interesting times in the primary to make people realize the ads that we had were focused on our four-point plan ... That is a message that will resonate with a vast majority of Georgians. What my job is now is to reach out to the people not voting in the Republican primary and let them know about the vision.” 

“We’ve got to turn the base out in the race. I know he’ll be talking about the same type of issues I’ve been talking about, that they’ve done in Washington that Georgians can be proud of. Like cutting government regulations, going after criminal illegals, working hard to secure the borders so we have an orderly system. We’re looking forward to him coming back to help us.”

  • On his opposition to Medicaid expansion:

“You’ll be hearing more from us about healthcare, too. This campaign is just now getting started since Labor Day is over. Government programs that aren’t working now are not a reason to give them more money. I want to work at reducing costs, opening up the private sector market to more competition.” 

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.