It’s been a long time coming. Over seven years in fact. Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle is trying to “drop the lieutenant from his title” and become the next governor of Georgia. On Sunday afternoon, Cagle made official what everyone has known for quite some time. He announced his 2018 gubernatorial bid at the Gwinnett Infinite Energy Theater in front of a crowd of passionate Cagle supporters. He is the third candidate and the third Republican to join the race (Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Senator Hunter Hill have also announced).
With his wife and three sons in tow, Cagle took the stage and articulated his vision for Georgia: more jobs, lower taxes, workforce development, and better transportation. In short, he will be taking aim at the establishment Republican lane in 2018, wooing the business connections he has been fostering since he was elected as a state senator in 1994.
Cagle’s early advantage is largely owed to his lucrative connections. The fact that he was able to hold his own event puts him above Kemp (who announced at a Cobb County GOP meeting) and Hill (who announced on the internet). A number of heavy hitters were in attendance too. There were at least 12 state senators at the event, including the president pro tempore and the majority leader.*
The event was preceded by a trio of country and rock-and-roll musicians: Zach Seabaugh, Andy Velo, and Collective Soul. Collective Soul started a “Casey” chant as they left the stage and were followed by Cagle’s wife Nita, and sons Jared, Grant, and Carter. There were technical issues in the theater, so we weren’t able to see Cagle’s campaign video (although it does contain the line, “Georgia works best when Georgia works together…”).
Cagle was introduced by retired WSB news anchor Monica Kaufman Pearson. She acknowledged the strangeness of that choice, saying she is a registered Democrat, an African American, and a journalist. But, she said that Cagle is her friend and that they have bonded over the similar hardships they faced while growing up as well as a shared passion for education reform. (I should mention that it is she, not I, who first called Cagle, “the man who wants to drop the lieutenant from his title”)
Then came Cagle. He talked about his personal history, his time as lieutenant governor, and began articulating what kind of campaign he would run. As the current front-runner, he said he has no interest in running a negative campaign or trying to take down other candidates. Most of the policy points he discussed were covered in this pre-announcement interview he did with the AJC on Saturday. Here are some of the highlights:
- Create 500,000 new jobs in Georgia
- Appoint an economic development liaison to coordinate with businesses and streamline the permitting process
- Commit to funding infrastructure-both transportation and rural broadband
- Develop a 10-year transportation plan that grows out of metro Atlanta and utilizes community partnerships
- Pass a $100 million tax cut in the 2019 legislative session by increasing exemptions
- Expand the number of college and career academies as well as apprenticeship programs
The event closed with a prayer from Pastor Jentezen Franklin of Free Chapel Church in Gainesville. Franklin said that he believed it was, “the season for Cagle and his family.” That it may be. There’s a long time until May 2018 when Cagle will face Kemp, Hill, and likely several others in the Republican primary. Things will probably get hairy along the way. But right now, no one looks better set to be the next governor of Georgia than Casey Cagle. He’s got the money, he’s got the connections, and Georgians have already elected him three times. Whatever else may come, that’s a good spot to be in.
*This author saw the following senators at the event: Renee Unterman, Brandon Beach, John Albers, Jack Hill, John Wilkinson, Fran Millar, Greg Kirk, Lee Anderson, Butch Miller, Steve Gooch, David Shafer, and Bill Cowsert. Noticeably absent was Michael Williams, who will quite possibly jump into the race at some point.