Why Jason Carter is campaigning in Florida today

This dispatch is from Jeremy Redmon, embedded with Carter on the campaign trail this week.

Jacksonville, Fla. – Jason Carter’s eight-year-old son Henry hung a “Free Gurley” T-shirt out one of the windows on their campaign bus. His father donned a bright red University of Georgia shirt. Carter’s Gainesville-born wife, Kate, bit her tongue.

Then they all stepped off their campaign bus here Saturday, seeking votes outside the annual UGA-Florida grudge match.

Rick James’ “Super Freak” blared from the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party.” UGA fans shouted “Go Dawgs” as they passed by. Florida fans clamped their arms imitating a gator chomp. There were no confirmed jean short sightings.

An older man wearing a UGA baseball cap walked up to Jason Carter and handed him a Deal campaign sticker, telling him he would be a good governor, “just not this time.” Carter smiled and told the man he would work for him as governor, whether he voted for him or not. The stranger smiled and wandered back into the maze of party buses.

The Carters continued on, holding hands with their five-year-old son Thomas. Georgia fan David Edens hollered that he voted early for Carter. After the candidate posed with him for a picture, the St. Simons Island man said Deal was “crazy” for refusing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“I think we need a new face in there,” the fly fishing charter captain said.

Hoisting a beer, Florida fan Travis Starling appeared stunned when Carter arrived at a UGA tailgating party nearby. The Daytona Beach resident was bracing for a loss to Georgia and even wore an orange and blue-colored baby pacifier around his neck “for after we lose."

“I’m sure you guys are going to stomp the snot out of us,” said Starling, a Valdosta native who owns a custom auto exhaust business.

Mark Weaver was hanging out with friends nearby, taking in the scene as he sipped from a beer in one hand and a bourbon and cola in the other. He's a Deal backer - he said he favored the Republican because he had decades of experience in public office compared to Carter, a two-term senator.

“I don’t know if Nathan Deal is the best governor of Georgia," said Weaver, "but I think he has done a solid job."

By the time Carter got back to his campaign bus to watch the game on TV - there were more stops to make in south Georgia - a gaggle of Florida fans were waiting. One of them was a financial adviser named Jason Carter - no relation - who wanted a pic with the candidate.

All along, a camera-wielding GOP tracker wearing a Deal campaign hat trailed Carter, who at one point smiled and put his arm around the young man.

“This is what bipartisanship should be like,” Carter said.

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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.