Georgia 2018: Republican Tippins stakes positions on RFRA, gambling

Republican political newcomer Clay Tippins is presenting himself as the sole true outsider in next year’s race for Georgia governor, hoping to borrow a page from the same playbook that helped David Perdue win a U.S. Senate seat in 2014.

Tippins, an Atlanta businessman and former U.S. Navy SEAL, announced his campaign in November and has since begun traveling the state to reach out to voters. And this week he staked his position on testy debates that could define the race against his four rivals: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, former state Sen. Hunter Hill and state Sen. Michael Williams.

Tippins is the only leading Republican candidate who refused a pledge to sign the “religious liberty” measure if he’s elected, saying he wouldn’t sign any oath involving undrafted legislation.

He called the debate over casino gambling a “false choice,” joining all four of his top rivals who also oppose the idea, and blasted his GOP rivals for a “cozy relationship” with Georgia Power that has led to a brewing crisis with the Plant Vogtle nuclear project.

And he said he would back a limited expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program – though he stopped short of calling for in-state cultivation – and said he would oppose state funding of mass transit.

Here are Tippins’ full answers:


I strongly support religious freedom but I won’t take the RFRA pledge. From what I can tell the two aren’t even related. I will continue to fight for our religious liberty with the same fervor with which I defended our country as a Navy SEAL. I’m a Christian, a man of faith, and believe the government should not trample on our beliefs. I will not sign any pledge regarding future undrafted legislation – including the RFRA pledge – but promise to veto any bill that enables lawsuits against people of faith.

Medical marijuana:

I’m against any step down a slippery slope towards recreational marijuana but Georgia law already permits the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil to assist patients who suffer from a variety of illnesses and diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and seizures. Patients should be able to access valid treatments that are already legal for use, especially those that have strong potential to combat the current opioid crisis in Georgia.


The reason all of the GOP candidates are united against this going to a vote is because this referendum is a false choice given to us by casino lobbyists who want to paint a rosy picture. Lobbyists say it won't increase sex trafficking, they say it won't put surrounding small businesses out of business, they say it's not just about revenues.  These are real issues that the people of Georgia worry about, myself included.

Mass Transit:

Politicians have lost their ability to lead because of a lack of trust and competency in our systems. As much as we need to relieve congestion, we can't ask voters in Willacoochee to make a sacrifice when the voters of Cobb and Gwinnett don't even trust the transit system in their counties.

Plant Vogtle:

Georgia Power has a cozy relationship with everyone under the Gold Dome. As a result, my opponents have a long record to defend on this issue. I will take the time to ask hard questions and apply my proven management experience to protect the Georgia citizens who pay these bills, while insuring Georgia has the energy required to build the first 21st century state.

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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.