Shotguns galore! Casey Cagle attacks Brian Kemp on an ag deal gone sour

Shotguns are getting a workout in the Republican race for governor.

Clearly riffing off the success of a TV spot that Brian Kemp used to help into a nine-week runoff campaign, Casey Cagle took a first hard shot at his rival this morning with a 30-second ad that accuses his rival from walking away from canola and sunflower oil processing project and leaving farmers in the lurch.

The language is harsh, intended to undercut Kemp’s emphasis on his business resume. The lieutenant governor calls the secretary of state “incompetent” and “untrustworthy.” In the accompanying press release, the Cagle campaign takes a stab at coining a new word: “InKempetence.” Watch here:

The Cagle attack has its roots in a Kemp television ad in which he questions “Jake,” a suitor interested in one of his daughters, while holding a double-barrel shotgun.

For documentation, the Cagle campaign has used this June 2017 AJC article:

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp faces a pair of lawsuits that claim he and other investors in a canola and sunflower oil processor failed to repay more than $700,000 in loans.

The separate lawsuits were filed this month by two firms that loaned money to Hart AgStrong, a Danielsville-based agriculture business. They both contend that Kemp, one of four Republicans in the 2018 race for Georgia governor, was among several investors who signed documents agreeing to personally pay back the loans.

Kemp said in a statement that he is one of “many” investors in Hart AgStrong and that he continues to “offer strategic advice to leadership as they work to resolve these financial matters.”

There’s also this from an agricultural news site, also published in June 2017:

TRENTON, Ky. (DTN) -- Hart AgStrong created a lot of fanfare when the small Georgia oilseed processor expanded into southwest Kentucky in 2014 and offered farmers a way to diversify their crop production by raising canola.

Hart AgStrong got a $450,000 tax incentive for job creation from the Kentucky Business Investment Program. Steve Beshear, Kentucky's governor at the time, came to the groundbreaking for the $7.3 million, 23,000-square-foot facility and said the canola crushing operation "will also provide a significant boost to our local farmers and Kentucky's food production industry. I look forward to seeing this Kentucky-made product on store shelves throughout the U.S."

More than three years later, Hart AgStrong's license to buy grain directly from farmers has been suspended in Kentucky because the small crushing company still owes farmers roughly $2.5 million on what they were supposed to receive on last year's crop that was delivered to the Trenton crush facility.

It seems the attack had been anticipated. The quick Kemp response via campaign spokesman Ryan Mahoney:

-- Kemp was an investor in Hart AgStrong. He didn’t run the company.

- The company’s fortunes were a casualty of the Great Recession.

- The $700,000 figure is outdated. HartStrong settled one  claim for $200,000. The other is still being negotiated.

- The license suspended didn’t belong to Kemp, but HartStrong.

Wrote Mahoney in an email:

Desperate politicians like Casey Cagle say the dumbest, most ignorant things when they see power and prestige slipping through their fingers. Brian Kemp started his first business over thirty years ago with a pick-up truck and a shovel. Since then, he has invested in start-ups throughout our state that have created jobs for hundreds of hardworking Georgians. While Kemp was contributing to the local economy, Casey Cagle was flying high on state airplanes, cruising around to campaign events with his state car and state trooper, and billing taxpayers for his extravagant lifestyle. Kemp was working hard to provide for his family and Cagle was selling access and votes to the highest bidder.

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About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.