Dahlonega - Gov. Nathan Deal’s swing through north Georgia began with a plea to Republican supporters to deprive Democrat Jason Carter of a launching pad to higher office.
"I'm not going to use this office as a stepping stone," Deal told a crowd of about 75 in downtown Dahlonega. "You can believe he will be looking to run for president. Don't give him a stepping stone or a springboard for higher office."
The Atlanta state senator, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, is trying to follow in his grandpa's footsteps from the Senate chamber to the governor's mansion. He has said nothing about higher ambitions.
It was the first stop on a swing through dozens of Georgia cities through the Nov. 4 election. Monday’s journey ping-pongs through the northern part of the state, a crucial bastion for Republicans. The northern third of the state has become the epicenter of Georgia’s political power, and that tectonic shift away from more rural south Georgia has reshaped the state’s politics.
"There was not a part of Georgia that has friendlier Republicans than this one," said Deal. At a later stop in Jefferson, he said the state isn't yet in danger of going to the Democratic column.
"If you see somebody turning purple, there's something wrong with them," said the governor. "They are being starved from the truth."
Deal edged out former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel by roughly 2,500 votes in the 2010 runoff thanks to strong support in north Georgia. He took his home county of Hall by almost 80 percent of the vote, and he swept most other counties along the upper band of the state. That helped offset Handel’s strong performance in metro Atlanta.
That's why the turnout operation is so important for Deal's campaign this final stretch. The governor said Democrats were not "leaving any stone unturned" in the hunt for votes. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, whose office oversees elections, said Democrats have an impressive turnout machine.
"Drag all of your family and friends to the polls," said Kemp. "That's what the other side is doing. And we can't leave one vote behind."
This morning, at the Home Grown restaurant in Reynoldstown, Democrat Jason Carter was all about getting the final word after last night's final gubernatorial debate on WSB-TV.
One part of the Sunday exchange involved the issue of whether the state’s teacher retirement fund should be used for venture capital – as a place that start-up businesses could seek backing. Carter has supported this, but lately has said that teachers are wise to treat the issue with skepticism.
Last night, Gov. Nathan Deal, the Republican incumbent, for the first time brought Carter’s father – not his presidential grandfather – into the race:
"I know that Senator Carter has received a lot of money from the venture capital groups. His father is in the venture capital business."
Replied Carter this morning:
"What he said was my father was somehow going to make money off of the state of Georgia fund. That is ridiculous."
Carter noted that Deal did not linger to shake hands after the debate was done. Said Carter:
"He stormed off after the debate last night. We feel great about how it went. And the governor is obviously angry and has a problem with the facts as they are. The reality is that he is the only person in the state right now who thinks the economy is working for the middle class. He is the only person in the state right now who thinks that our education system is being properly funded and being properly cared for."
The Deal campaign contends that, after the debate, they went down to the WSB-TV lobby to do an interview with an 11Alive reporter and posed for pictures with studio employees. "There was no storming," Deal spokeswoman Jen Talaber said.
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