As a new campaign ad touts, “It’s on.” That is, the race between Gov. Nathan Deal and Jason Carter, who released an ad late Tuesday with that tag-line. Carter and Deal both won their primaries Tuesday. GPB sat down with both candidates the day after the primary to hear their competing visions for Georgia.
Both Carter and Deal claim his party is the party of the future. But they have very different approaches to solving the state’s current problems. Indeed, they even differ on what constitutes a problem.
In an interview Wednesday morning, Deal said Tuesday’s victory was gratifying. The 71-year-old former Congressman says is proud of shepherding Georgia’s economy back from the brink, following the Recession.
And with an eye on the broader electorate he’ll face in November, Deal struck a moderate tone in talking about how Democrats and Republicans need to work together, spotlighting his relationship with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
“I think that’s what people want – for folks not to be so wed to one political ideology to the extent that that they can’t work with those who don’t totally agree with them on everything," he said. "The Mayor and I are good friends. We see what is needed for our Capitol city here of Atlanta and I think we both see what’s needed for our state as a whole.”
Deal wouldn’t comment on Carter’s policies or his candidacy. But it was clear he thinks the 38-year-old state Senator isn’t ready to lead a state of nearly 10 million people.
“I have the experience, and you know I think experience counts for a lot,” he said. “Experience generally brings wisdom. All of us make mistakes. The question is, do you learn from your mistakes and do you avoid them in the future? People who have never made mistakes don’t have the benefit of the wisdom that’s gained from it.”
And he says the state can learn from its past, too. He said electing a Democrat would cause Georgia to backslide on taxes and other issues that were hurting the state.
“The Republican Party under my leadership is going be the party of the future," he said. "It’s the party of the now. It’s the party that has caused Georgia to go forward. And that’s what I want us to continue to do.”
Carter, of course, sees things differently. A father of two, the husband of a schoolteacher, Carter calls Georgia’s education system broken. And his campaign has attracted national attention. That’s because in addition to being an attorney, he’s the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.
Carter rebuffs the notion he lacks the requisite experience to lead the state. He points to his two terms in the state Senate. And he says Deal’s years as Governor has produced missteps, from slashing the state’s education budget to failing this winter to manage a snow storm that paralyzed Atlanta and parts of Georgia.
“We have a laundry list of issues that have been badly mismanaged,” he said. “So if the argument is he’s made so many mistakes that now he’s wise and deserves another term, I don’t think people are going to buy that.”
Deal demurred when asked how Carter would steer Georgia wrong if elected. But Carter, speaking Wednesday at his campaign office, didn’t hesitate to blast Deal on specific issues.
“Education and funding is about priorities," he said. "The only reason we have cut education is because we have used it to pay for other things. And my plan says you should have an education-first budget every year – not just in an election year.”
And he pushed back against any notion that his campaign is a long-shot or that Georgia is an irretrievably red state with rock-solid Republican support.
“Go look throughout rural Georgia at the number of Democrats who serve as sheriffs, the number of people who self-identify as Democrats,” he said. “You have a huge number of people who identify as independents now.”
Both Carter and Deal will be courting those independent voters between now and November 4.