Georgia Gubernatorial candidates speak to GFB members
Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau
Georgia Farm Bureau invited the leading gubernatorial candidates from both parties to speak at the annual GFB Day at the Capitol lunch on Feb. 13. Scheduling conflicts prevented everyone from attending, but GFB members had the chance to hear from Stacey Abrams, Hunter Hill, Brian Kemp and Clay Tippins.
Each candidate had five minutes to introduce themselves and their platform to those attending the lunch. Below, listed in alphabetical order is a synopsis of the candidates' remarks.
Stacey Abrams, a lawyer, businesswoman and author, represented House District 84 in the Georgia General Assembly from 2007-2013 and House Dist. 89 from 2013-Aug. 2017, when she resigned to run for governor. She served as Minority Leader of the Democratic Party in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011 until July 1, 2017.
A Georgia resident for 29 years, Abrams was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and raised in Gulfport, Mississippi, until her parents moved to Atlanta to pursue graduate degrees. She graduated from Avondale High School, Spelman College, University of Texas & Yale University.
She shared that when she stood to be elected Minority Leader by her colleagues in 2010, she reached out to Reps. Tom McCall & Terry England to learn about rural Georgia so she could represent the entire state.
“I am a new kind of leader. I understand that the land isn’t Democratic or Republican. We must have leaders who can work across the aisle,” Abrams said. “I understand that the life blood of our state runs through South Georgia and North Georgia and lifts up agriculture.”
Abrams said she wants to invest in children through early education programs and supports the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s 20/20 program to see that 20 percent of all school meals are grown in Georgia by the year 2020. She voiced support for expanding access to Medicaid saying, “This is important for rural hospitals.”
She cited the need for expanding broadband access into rural Georgia saying, “We have to be a state where access is equal throughout the state.”
Regarding transportation she said, “Transportation & transit isn’t just an Atlanta issue. We have to think about getting from Talbotton to Columbus.”
Georgia native Hunter Hill is a West Point graduate & former Army Ranger who served three combat tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is also a business owner and represented Senate Dist. 6 in the Georgia General Assembly from 2013-Aug. 2017, when he resigned to run for governor. Hill is a licensed real estate professional, who supports private property ownership, and is also president of a coaching company for entrepreneurs and executives.
“There’s so much more we can be doing to move the conservative agenda and our state forward, but it’s not going to happen unless we elect someone who isn’t a career politician,” Hill said.
His vision for Georgia includes limiting the size of government, eliminating the state income tax and injecting a competitive free market into public K-12 education and giving parents more choice in where their children are educated.
“For agriculture I’ll do whatever possible to get government out of your way. I’ll look to protect CUVA and ensure EPD works for you and not against you,” Hill said. We need to ensure agriculture continues to have access to water. My main goal as your next governor is not to have all the answers but to be a willing partner for Georgia agriculture.”
Hill and his wife, Shannon, have two children. The family attends Peachtree Presbyterian Church.
Athens native Brian Kemp introduced himself as a small business owner of more than 30 years. Kemp said he has a small construction business, a stone business, a timber farm and financial services.
Kemp served as a Georgia Senator from 2003-2007 representing Dist. 46. He has served as Georgia Secretary of State since 2010. He graduated from UGA with a bachelor's degree in agriculture.
“I was a frustrated small business owner tired of high taxes and regulations when I ran to serve in the Georgia senate,” Kemp said. “As a small business owner and Republican, I believe in small government.”
Kemp said he has saved Georgia taxpayers millions while serving as Secretary of State by implementing a new filing system for corporations and a new voter registration system. He said the citizenship check he implemented ensures Georgia has fair elections.
Kemp described his four-point gubernatorial plan for Georgia as follows:
- Make Georgia the No. 1 state for small business by cutting burdensome regulations, streamlining state government and standing against healthcare reform that punishes small businesses.
- Reforming state government by implementing a state spending cap and eliminating wasteful programs and tax incentives based on the return on investment to the state of tax incentives.
- Strengthen rural Georgia by bringing high-speed internet to rural Georgia and promoting economic development and investment in rural Georgia to create jobs.
- Put Georgia first by defunding sanctuary cities, ending taxpayer-funded subsidies for illegal immigrants and putting needs of Georgia ahead of status quo political interests.
He and his wife, Marty, have three daughters. The family attends Emmanuel Episcopal Church.
A native Georgian, Clay Tippins grew up in Gwinnett County where he was a national champion swimmer at Shiloh High School. He graduated from Stanford University and then graduated from the Navy’s Officer Candidate School and served on the Navy’s SEAL Team One. He later joined the Navy SEAL Reserves and served on SEAL Team 18 as recently as 2015.
He has worked for numerous technological companies including BrightStar and Capgemini.
“If you look at our government you can make the argument that nothing has improved in the last 50 years,” Tippins said. “I think our state is where Egypt was when Joseph went to Pharaoh and warned him about the coming famine. We’re going to have to do something differently if we’re going to survive.”
Tippins shared his positions on the following issues facing Georgia:
- Crime – “We’ve got to address sex trafficking and opioids. Atlanta is the number one city in the U.S. for sex trafficking and the crime caused by opioid addiction has affected too many lives.”
- Transportation – “We need to make significant investment in transportation. We need roads that bypass Atlanta.”
- Education – “Third grade reading is our most pressing problem. Two-thirds of our third graders can’t read at a third-grade level.” Studies have shown third grade reading rates indicate a child’s future success.
- State spending – “We need to shave $2-$3 billion off the state budget.” While the state budget is in good shape on paper, Tippins says the state budget needs to be tightened due to the federal debt so that Georgia will have money in the future to fight crime, build roads and educate students.
- Agriculture – “I worked in technology for over a decade. I believe I‘m the candidate who has the best experience to see it’s installed in rural Georgia. I will fight to protect water rights in Georgia.”
He and his wife, Lori, have two children. The family attends Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.