Cagle faces unsettled voters in home territory after ‘bad’ recording

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle addresses a Hall County GOP meeting.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle addresses a Hall County GOP meeting.

Gainesville - Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle had a warm reception Saturday at a GOP meeting in his native Hall County, but several voters said they were unsettled about his remarks admitting to voting for a "bad" education bill to hurt a rival candidate for governor.

The GOP candidate didn’t directly address the recording during his 15 minute remarks, and other invited speakers veered clear of it. But Cagle emphasized his record on education policy before delving into a broader campaign pitch.

More: Cagle tries to limit damage after recording 

More: Read transcript of secret recording of Cagle backing 'bad public policy' 

More: Secret recording shows Cagle backed 'bad' bill to hurt gov race rival 

More: Read the highlights of Cagle's response to secret recording 

“The greatest issue that confronts us as a state today really is making sure that we’re building a world-class workforce that is second to none,” Cagle said. “That’s what I committed myself to lieutenant governor, creating the college and career network.”

In the recording, secretly taped by former GOP opponent Clay Tippins, Cagle said he supported expanding an income tax credit for private schools even though it was "bad public policy" to block a super PAC from spending millions of dollars to help former state Sen. Hunter Hill's campaign.

Despite the friendly atmosphere – Cagle was born in Hall County and once represented the GOP stronghold in the state Senate – some voters said they were concerned by the news of Cagle’s secretly-recorded remarks that he voted for a bill that was bad in “a thousand different ways.”

Gainesville resident Sarah Gaboury, who held a baby on her lap during the meeting, said she’s still uncertain whether to support Cagle or Secretary of State Brian Kemp, his opponent in the July 24 runoff. But she said she was disappointed he didn’t address the taping.

“I was surprised that that wasn’t asked about,” Gaboury said. “It was a little concerning because you’re supposed to be for the people and that conversation made it sound like he’s for himself.”

Douglas Aiken of Hall County said that he has decided to vote for Kemp - and that the recording cemented his decision.

“It’s definitely concerning. I was wondering if that was going to get brought up, but I guess a lot of people don’t keep up and would rather ignore it,” Aiken said.

Other voters defended Cagle, who sought to downplay the recording in an exclusive interview Friday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News. (Read the highlights here.)

Johnny Varner, a member of the Hall County GOP executive board, said he’s staying neutral in the race but that he sees Cagle as a strong candidate despite the recording.

“I’m not sure if I’ve got enough details to make a determination,” said Varner. “I’m not one to judge people at all. If it was true, it would be really out of character.”

Kemp's campaign, meanwhile, aimed to amplify the pressure on Cagle in his backyard. Cagle fell just short of carrying a majority of the GOP vote in Hall County in May, and Kemp tweeted after the meeting that his team has put "signs up throughout Hall!"