Jefferson – Gov. Nathan Deal has been heard more than seen on the campaign trail, invoked in a string of ads and campaign speeches by both candidates but rarely appearing in person.
That changed Monday as Republican Brian Kemp kicked off a final campaign bus tour with a string of stops in northeast Georgia – and the incumbent he’s seeking to replace joined him.
Deal told a crowd of several hundred gathered at a lakeside stop in Jefferson that Kemp will extend his pro-business legacy and keep Georgia “the No. 1 place in the nation to do business.”
“There’s a surge on the other side unlike anything we’ve encountered before,” said Deal, to a sea of bobbing heads nodding in agreement. “All that really does to us, though, is show how important our votes are.”
Kemp eagerly welcomed the support.
“On that exact same bus in 2010, we talked about jobs, we talked about the economy,” he said, pointing to the giant bus that’s shepherding the Republicans across Georgia this week. “He focused on that in 2010, and you know what he’s done? He’s gotten Georgia working. And I’ll keep Georgia working.”
Despite his high approval ratings – polls show he’s the most popular politician in Georgia – Deal has until recently played an understated role in the race for his job.
The governor was a reluctant supporter of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the July runoff, then quickly endorsed Kemp after his runaway victory. But aside from a few campaign fundraisers and the filming of a TV ad, he hasn’t been a forceful presence on the campaign trail, at times even gently chiding both candidates.
His opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, has cast herself as the true inheritor to at least a part of Deal’s legacy. And she’s praised his economic agenda while blasting Kemp for supporting a version of the “religious liberty” measure that Deal vetoed.
But she’s most effusive about his criminal justice overhaul, an eight-year project that Abrams said embodied “pragmatism that led him to be willing to work across the aisle but also to push back on his own people.”
Republican Brian Kemp’s opening stops took him deep into friendly territory: The conservative areas around his hometown of Athens.
He was joined by most of the Republican ticket, including Attorney General Chris Carr and Public Service Commissioners Chuck Eaton and Tricia Pridemore. And at each rally, Kemp tried to rev up GOP turnout by warning of high Democratic turnout.
“I don’t know in my lifetime if there’s ever been an election when Georgia families had more at stake,” he said.
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