By Elaine Owen, Editor ~~
Georgia Secretary of State and candidate for Governor Brian Kemp was greeted by many eager faces as he stepped off the bus just after 1 p.m. Monday at Cucina Rustica restaurant in Fannin County for the third stop on a week-long campaign tour.
Local elected officials, law enforcement and emergency services personnel, as well as dozens of Fannin residents, gathered to hear the gubernatorial candidate who will face Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams on Nov. 6. (Early voting begins Oct. 15.)
The “Putting Georgians First” bus tour will hit 27 counties this week.
After greeting U.S. Representative Doug Collins, Speaker of the House David Ralston, State Senator Steve Gooch, and hosts for the bus stop luncheon Michelle Moran and Danny Mellman, the crowd moved inside Cucina Restaurant for a short rally.
Sheriff Dane Kirby gave the blessing then Clerk of Superior Court Dana Chastain introduced the Speaker of the House.
Chastain said, “I’ve known Mr. Ralston for a long time and I know how hard he works. But I saw another side of him when I happened to see him a while back on the Sherry Show. I could tell he was speaking from the heart and he wanted everyone to know that he was troubled by the problems they (legislators) were facing and how they affected Fannin County.
He said, ‘What can we do to protect local control of our schools? What can we do to keep our hospitals viable? What can we do about improving transportation in our district? What can we do to bring jobs to our district? All these things are important to you—and they’re important to me. And it’s our job (at the State House) to figure out the answers. And we’re working on that every day.’
“In all these things, through his questions, Mr. Ralston spoke from the heart. This man ALWAYS speaks from the heart. He is not only MY friend, but he’s a friend to everyone he meets—not only in Fannin County, but in Gilmer and Dawson Counties—and everyone in his district. He’s the hardest-working man that I know. Please welcome my friend, Mr. David Ralston, Speaker of the House.”
After recognizing the crowd, Speaker Ralston immediately let the 100-some people know that the reason they were there was “to elect the next Governor of the State of Georgia—Mr. Brian Kemp. With him today are his lovely wife Marty and his daughter Jarrett. I also want to welcome our U.S. Representative Doug Collins and State Senator Steve Gooch.”
Ralston stressed the importance of voting. “Don’t think your vote is not important. In this race, EVERY VOTE is important. And it’s important that each of us makes sure we encourage others to vote. We can’t set home and think this election is just going to be a win for Brian (Kemp). It isn’t. He needs our votes—every one of us—so let’s help him get this done and have him our next governor!”
In a brief address to the crowd, Kemp touched on a few key points of his campaign, including taxes, education and law enforcement.
He said that if elected he plans to support further tax cuts like the tax cut that the state legislature passed last year.
“I’m planning as governor to sign another tax cut this coming year,” Kemp said.
He also told the energized crowd that he plans to focus on deregulation of businesses and to create an environment in the state that supports small business.
“I started my first company with a pickup truck, a shovel and a toolbox. My plan is to create an environment in our state where we have less regulation, low costs of doing business and low taxes.”
His plans for education include immediate raises for teachers, less standardized testing and more local control.
“I want to expand Pre-K, I want to protect the HOPE Scholarship. I want to have less testing, less state mandates, more local control when it comes to education, give our hardworking teachers a pay raise, lowering taxes and letting them teach our children…they know what to do in their local community a lot better than some bureaucrat in the state government or the federal government does.”
Kemp has proposed a permanent annual teacher pay raise of $5,000. He also said that he would allocate funds for safety improvements through the establishment of a school safety division in the Georgia Department of Education, as well as address mental health by funding counselors in every high school.
Kemp paused just a minute before continuing, “This is an important year for a lot of reasons, and we all have a job to do. We need to get people out to vote–your families and your friends, people at church and at work, everybody has got to get out and vote so we can keep this office in Republican hands.
“We are in a fight of our lives right now,” Kemp said. “For the people who are saying we’ve got this in the bag, let me tell you—WE DO NOT. We’re in great shape, we’re going to win, but we can’t win if anybody stays at home. Don’t let showing up this morning be the last thing you do for this campaign. Let it be the start.”
Other stops on the Putting Georgians First Tour Monday included River Street Tavern in Gilmer County at 2 p.m., First National Community Bank in Murray County at 3:30 p.m. and Whitfield County at 5:30 p.m.
Throughout the week the Secretary of State/Governor candidate also plans to stop in Floyd, Bartow, Haralson, Douglas, Coweta, Spalding, Sumter, Lee, Mitchell, Cook, Tift, Clinch, Coffee, Irwin, Dodge, Houston, Peach, Laurens, Washington, Richmond and Hart Counties.