Georgia Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp met with local supporters and media at a townhall-style breakfast last week in Chatsworth, touting his diverse background and plans to address issues important to the state's rural communities.
At the event, hosted by Rep. Jason Ridley (R) and leadership from the Murray County Republican Party, Kemp outlined specific initiatives that evolve from the four-point plan he'd implement as the state's next governor. One of those initiatives unveiled that day is the streamlining of the adoption process in Georgia to take some of the burden off the foster care system and Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services.
"These are real solutions to real problems," said Kemp, noting that he is the only candidate for governor in either party who has experience as a small business owner, a state Senator and a state executive.
Kemp also stopped in Dalton, following a sit-down interview with The Chatsworth Times. He seemed keenly aware of local issues, such as the Appalachian Regional Port project now under construction in north Murray County.
"I understand the issues that affect rural areas, and I also see the opportunity," said Kemp. "Transportation and infrastructure improvements are perfect examples. You have people in the governor's race who are talking about bridging over the Connector in downtown Atlanta, or even tunneling under it, but nobody is talking about how much it's going to cost or who is going to pay for it.
"The people of Murray County and the rest of rural Georgia don't want to send their tax dollars intended for transportation to relieve Atlanta's traffic congestion - they'd rather see projects like widening Highway 411 in critical spots around the new inland port, and fixing crumbling pavement, and putting in needed stoplights," said Kemp.
"I know how important little things like that are to our communities, and that's what I'll be fighting for in the governor's office," he added.
Kemp is a small business owner and former member of the state General Assembly as a representative from Athens. He was appointed Georgia's Secretary of State by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2010, when Karen Handel resigned to run for governor. Kemp won the first of two four-year terms later that year.
Kemp is running to replace current Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who has served the maximum two consecutive terms. He believes the experience he has gained running his own businesses can be put to good use as governor; in fact it's the first plank in his proposed four-point plan:
1. Make Georgia number one for small business. Kemp plans to address excessive regulatory burdens for businesses, and cut red tape. He pledges to oppose health care legislation that harms small businesses.
2. Reform state government. One plank is to implement a state spending cap. He wants to eliminate wasteful programs, tax incentives and bureaucracy.
3. Strengthen all of Georgia. One of Kemp’s strongest messages revolves around providing equal opportunities for rural areas. That includes bringing high-speed internet to rural Georgia, promoting development and investment across entire state, and supporting small town start-ups, farmers and agribusiness.
4. Put Georgia first. Kemp supports defunding sanctuary cities and campuses, and ending subsidies for illegal immigrants. “We must put the needs of hardworking Georgians ahead of special interests and protect Georgia values,” said Kemp.
"I want the people of Murray County to be my special interest group," he added.
Less than six months remain until the May 22 Republican primary in Georgia. There are nine declared candidates for the 2018 Georgia governor's race.
Kemp's Republican opponents are Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, state Sen. Hunter Hill, state Sen. Michael Williams, former educator Marc Alan Urbach and businessman Clay Tippins.
Democrats who have declared for the governor's race are state Rep. Stacey Evans and former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, while Libertarian Doug Craig was the very first candidate to formally jump into the race in August 2015.
Here are other notable quotes from the Chatsworth Times interview-
"In Atlanta and Savannah, it's booming. But in the rural parts of the state, there still are not the same opportunities that some areas have."
"Strengthening small businesses in Georgia is huge. That's a key to community growth."
"Every day, I'm a small business owner who fights through problems like everyone else."
"It's sad, when kids in rural areas have to move away from the areas where they grew up. Wanting to leave is OK, but when they have to leave to find opportunity, that's sad."