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Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 12:14pm

Gov. Deal Gets Surprise Challenger

The mayor of Dalton will challenge Gov. Nathan Deal for the GOP nomination in next year’s gubernatorial race. David Pennington says he’s running because Deal isn’t doing enough to foster job growth and boost the economy.

Pennington says the nation’s economy has grown 70 percent faster than Georgia’s over the last decade.

And he says, as mayor of his northwest Georgia city, property taxes have fallen in Dalton along with spending.

In addition to holding public office, Pennington is a businessman. He declined to give interviews about his candidacy.

But Deal, speaking at a chamber of commerce lunch in Atlanta, didn’t hesitate to defend himself.

"I look forward to running on my record," Deal told reporters. "I believe it’s a record that shows the kind of leadership most Georgians want. As you just heard me say in the meeting, I think our job numbers are great: 177,000 new jobs since I’ve become Governor.”

Georgia politicians and experts say Pennington’s candidacy is a long shot.

But his announcement means the state will have to hold a primary election. And Deal will have to campaign to win the nomination.

Matt Towery runs the polling firm Insider Advantage. He says you can never rule anything out in politics even if Pennington is a relative unknown. But he says it will be hard to unseat Deal.

“Gov. Deal has a very strong approval rating – very strong among Republicans and those most likely to vote in a Republican primary," he said. "Pennington would have to go very far to win the nomination because he would have to bring the Governor’s approval rating down.”

Deal said in addition to a strong record of boosting jobs, he's also kept taxes low. There are some Georgia Republicans pushing to eliminate or lower the income tax as surrounding states have done. But Deal said the state derives too much of its revenue from the income tax to put it in jeopardy.

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