COVINGTON, Ga. — Casey Cagle said he remains focused on pulling out a win in the Republican runoff for governor, even though a presidential endorsement didn’t go his way.
President Donald Trump endorsed Secretary of State Brian Kemp on Wednesday. The next morning, Cagle’s campaign bus tour came through Newton County and the lieutenant governor said he wasn’t sure why Trump’s advisers steered him toward Kemp in the final days before the election.
“I think many of the insiders in Washington, D.C., may have misled him on the endorsement,” Cagle said.
Brian Kemp is running for Governor of the great state of Georgia. The Primary is on Tuesday. Brian is tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration. He loves our Military and our Vets and protects our Second Amendment. I give him my full and total endorsement.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2018
Cagle and Kemp are locked in a battle for the Republican nomination for governor. Early voting ends Friday, and Election Day is Tuesday.
The winner will face Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams in the Nov. 6 general election.
“For me, we’re focused on winning this race,” Cagle said. “We’re focused on doing the things that are necessary in order for us to continue the path that is right for Georgia versus than turning to a risky path that really puts us in jeopardy in November.
“Clearly we’re the only candidate that can win in November.”
I'm ready to be your next governor. It’s an honor to have @GovernorDeal’s strong support. Georgia voters overwhelmingly approve of Gov. Deal’s record of accomplishment. It’s one of the greatest honors of my life to have him standing with us in this race. #CagleLead #gapol #gagop pic.twitter.com/zxY7AcgAoo— Casey Cagle (@CaseyCagle) July 16, 2018
“Gov. Deal knows this state, and we’re going to continue to see the economic prosperity that we have,” Cagle said. “We’ve got the fastest-growing GDP (gross domestic product) in the entire Southeast.”
Cagle said he wants to create 500,000 new jobs in the next four years, cut the state income tax rate to below 5 percent and exempt taxes on retirement benefits for veterans.
“The people of Georgia know us. The important point of all of this is this seat, this office, does not belong to anyone,” Cagle said. “It belongs to the people of our state, and that is what is going to move it where voters are interested. I’m going to be focused on making sure that we are responsive to the needs of our citizens, and we have a track record to back that up.”
Cagle wouldn’t call Trump’s endorsement of Kemp a “setback” in his campaign, despite a poll released by Fox 5 Thursday morning showing Kemp with a big lead.
The poll, also conducted by Opinion Savvy, showed Kemp the preference of 55 percent of likely voters compared to 37 percent favoring Cagle.
Only 8 percent remained undecided.
“We know where we’re going in this race, and we know how to win,” Cagle said. “I’ve been an underdog all of my life, from when I was 3 when my dad left my mom. I had to fight through adversity all of my life, and I’m going to fight through this as well.
“We’re going to continue to present the options to the citizens, and we believe they’re going to vote for us.”
Cagle drew 39 percent in the five-man primary on May 22. Kemp made the runoff with a second-place showing of 25.55 percent.
Kemp carried Newton County with 40 percent of the vote in the primary to Cagle’s 33.38 percent.
Cagle took the biggest shot of the day not at Kemp but at a former rival, Clay Tippins, calling him “a has-been” when a reporter asked about Tippins’ allegations Cagle offered to arrange money from donors to pay off Tippins’ campaign debt.
Tippins has endorsed Kemp.“I’m getting a little tired of his antics as well. I never offered him $300,000 to bribe him for anything,” Cagle said. “This is an individual who repeatedly says one thing but has a track record sadly that’s under false pretense.”