The early frontrunner in the race to become Georgia’s next governor made a fundraising stop in Columbus Friday morning as candidates scramble to pick up contributions before the General Assembly session starts next week.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle was at the Chattahoochee River Club for a private breakfast fundraiser attended by a number of Columbus business and civic leaders.
During an interview prior to the event, Cagle said his campaign is going as planned.
“We have organized in 159 counties with about 1,500 people across the state who make up the organization,” he said. “Along with that, we have 96 sheriffs who have endorsed our campaign. ... Every metric that we have set, both from a grassroots standpoint, social media perspective along with funding, we have exceeded.”
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Members of the General Assembly are prohibited from taking political contributions while the lawmakers are in session. The 2018 session starts Monday and is expected to last about three months. That will create a tight deadline for candidates like Cagle with a March 5-9 qualifying period and the the primary on May 22.
“Now, we are ramping down the fundraising because we have to shut that off on Jan. 7,” Cagle said. “Then, we will go into session.”
Cagle, completing his third term as lieutenant governor, held a fundraising event in Savannah on Thursday before flying into Columbus. He left here for another event in LaGrange.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp, former state Sen. Hunter Hill and Sen. Michael Williams are also seeking the Republican nomination. Republicans have held the Georgia governor’s office since 2002 when Sonny Perdue defeated incumbent Democrat Roy Barnes.
Because it is an election year, Cagle said the General Assembly session will have certain challenges. Part of Cagle’s responsibilities include presiding over the state Senate.
“This is not my first rodeo,” Cagle said. “We have been through it an awful lot over the years. We know how to manage that. And the way you manage it is to set the narrative early — set the focus of the session early.”
And that focus is clear, Cagle said.
“Georgia needs to continue to be the No. 1 state in which to do business,” he said. “I am committed to building the infrastructure and the assets we have as a state. Where we are weak, we need to design areas to address those weaknesses.”
Rural development is one of those weak spots, Cagle said.
“I have a rural broadband initiative that is of great importance to me,” he said. “I think it’s more important to the citizens of our state. Our plan is to empower the Georgia Technology Authority to do an assessment. We need to know where we are deficient. Then to begin to deploy the high-speed internet there. We do that through public-private partnerships and grant funding to the communities identified.”