Republican Hunter Hill on the campaign trail in Rome. AJC/Greg Bluestein

Georgia 2018: Hill calls for state takeover of Atlanta airport 

Republican Hunter Hill said he would support legislation that would give the state oversight over Atlanta’s bustling airport, saying it would help stave off corruption and pave the way for a second major airport in Georgia. 

The former state senator, in a tight race for the GOP nomination for governor, backed a measure that would put a state-appointed board in charge of Hartsfield-Jackson that would mirror state boards that oversee the ports and the Georgia World Congress Center.

He outlined his support for the measure at a campaign stop in Rome, where he said it would help spur growth in rural areas. He elaborated in an interview, saying the world’s busiest airport is "too weighty for one mayor to oversee” while citing the ongoing federal probe into corruption in Atlanta City Hall. 

“Georgia doesn’t reach its economic potential if it continues to be a one-city state,” said Hill, adding: “Georgia struggles to put additional cities on the map, and you can do that if you have a state approach to this juggernaut of economic development.”

State lawmakers have threatened for decades to give the state more say over the airport, and Republican state Sen. Burt Jones revived the push this year. But each failed to gain traction, and this year faced opposition from both Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who took office in January, has also fiercely opposed any effort by the state to wrest away control of the city’s prized jewel.

Hill is one of five leading Republicans in the May 22 primary to succeed Deal. The GOP nominee will face one of two Democrats in November: Former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams or ex-state Rep. Stacey Evans.