A surreal moment: Nathan Deal and Ludacris together at a campaign stop

There have been plenty of strange moments in Georgia’s campaign for governor but Friday’s appearance with Gov. Nathan Deal and Ludacris topped them all.

The governor and Luda appeared together at Clayton County's Utopian Academy for the Arts, the first charter school to be approved by a Republican-backed constitutional amendment that gave the state new power to create the systems.

"As impressed as I am with what you have done, I want you to see what you can become," said Deal in (very short) remarks introducing the hip-hop star.

Luda then told the 150 or so students, who were not told he was coming, "not to take no for an answer" and to keep striving in the classroom.

"We already made history and now it's about continuing to make history, and encouraging people to join this school," Ludacris said, adding: "You have street smarts and when you add book smarts to that, you're unstoppable."

It was a Deal campaign event, but it was not an endorsement. The governor said he met Luda at a festival honoring Grammy winners a few years ago and has kept in contact since.

"This was a very successful Georgian who was coming trying to inspire other young people to follow in his footsteps. And I think that's the message that all of us would like to have," said Deal. "It has nothing to do with a political endorsement. I have never even broached that."

The campaign of state Sen. Jason Carter, the Democratic nominee for governor, said Deal's "election-year interest in Georgia's schools rings hollow."

"Students, teachers and families that have struggled under the governor's cuts deserve a governor who will put education first every year," said the campaign. "That's Jason Carter."

We couldn’t help but be reminded of our last encounter with Ludacris on the campaign trail, back in 2008 when he joined T.I. and Young Jeezy to urge voters to back Democrat Jim Martin's failed Senate campaign.

Ludacris, whose real name is Chris Bridges, is an avowed supporter of President Barack Obama who got in hot water for rap lyrics in 2008 that backed the future president over rival Hillary Clinton. He also contributed $2,500 to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's election in 2012. Luda left without taking any questions.

Deal visited Utopian earlier this fall to highlight his support of the constitutional amendment, and Deal called Luda a few days ago to ask him to return to the school.

The visit comes weeks after Deal previewed a possible expansion of the charter school system, modeled off a Louisiana program, if he wins a second term. He sees a political upside in pushing the expansion, often noting that minority voters in counties like Clayton overwhelmingly supported the 2012 amendment.

"They were wanting something like the Utopian Academy For the Arts to come into their community," said Deal. "That's all the more reason why it needs to be successful."

We couldn't help but ask Deal if he had any favorite Ludacris hits.

"I'm not into that genre," the governor said with a chuckle. "Maybe I should say that 'The Fast and the Furious' is more up to my speed."

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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.
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