Clay Tippins was an outsider candidate with out-of-the-box ideas that landed him a distant fourth-place finish.
While his GOP rivals in the race for governor focused on tried-and-true issues like gun rights and illegal immigration, the Capgemini executive went with an array of policy proposals that wouldn’t exactly be red meat on a typical primary voter’s plate.
He emphasized his support for an expanded medical marijuana program, despite long-held concerns from GOP voters that it would lead to the decriminalization of the drug.
He talked of retooling state government, but not of mega-tax cuts, and pledged to significantly improve third-grade reading levels in a crowded GOP field that rarely featured debate over k-12 education.
He was the only GOP candidate to refuse a pledge to sign the “religious liberty” measure, though he said he would likely support the bill anyways and accused his rivals of being weaselly by promising to sign a law they hadn’t yet seen.
And he harped on the need to eliminate sex-trafficking – a meritorious idea, for sure, but one that isn’t exactly standard fare on the campaign trail.
But that was the point of Tippins’ campaign – he ran as a true outsider who bucked conventional political norms. He entered the race with a no-frills event last year and at forums often looked viscerally uncomfortable – as if he couldn’t stand some of the people on stage with him.
(In one memorable moment, when given the chance to ask an opponent a question, he instead aimed it at the “people of Georgia.” The moderator interjected, telling him the rules dictated he must address a rival. He insisted on continuing, issuing a defiant: “I’m tired of the political games.”)
The former Navy SEAL – and he emphasized his military service at every turn – hoped to seize the same outsider aura that propelled David Perdue to a U.S. Senate win. He hired some Perdue veterans, including the adsmith who honed the senator’s jean-jacketed image.
But he lacked the former Fortune 500 chief executive’s famous last name, his political connections and his personal fortune. Tippins reported in financial disclosures a net worth of about $750,000; he loaned himself at least $450,000 to jump-start his campaign.
He introduced himself to voters with a splashy Super Bowl Sunday ad that mocked both Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. But a later ad faced far more backlash: It cast ex-state Sen. Hunter Hill as a “Benedict Arnold” for briefly supporting raising the age limits to buy assault weapons.
At a debate just before the primary vote, Tippins stood by the TV attack. And as the election neared, he tried new ways to reach out to a distracted electorate. The most innovative: He held a “marathon” Facebook Live session that stretched from 8 p.m. on election eve through the primary itself.
Shortly before polls closed, the live-stream included his wife Lori, who spoke frankly about her husband’s decision to run a longshot campaign and why they focused so much of their messaging on medical marijuana and sex trafficking. They had no regrets.
“We have poured everything into this race – we have put 110 percent of our hearts into this thing,” he said. “But some things are out of our control.”
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