Local News

May 21, 2014

Pennington says he enjoyed campaign

Despite finishing second Tuesday in the Republican primary for governor, former Dalton mayor David Pennington said he’d “do it all over again.”

“We knew when we started this thing a year ago that this would be a difficult mountain to climb when you have no name recognition, and we knew we better come with a whole lot of money,” Pennington said Tuesday night.

“But we had a ball doing this. Wherever we went our message resonated. Our only problem was that we could not get that message out to more people,” Pennington said.

At press time, the Secretary of State’s website showed incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal with 348,255 votes (71.18 percent), while Pennington received 78,551 votes (16.28 percent) and state school Superintendent John Barge received 55,703 votes (11.54 percent)

Deal will face Democratic nominee Jason Carter in the November general election.

Tuesday’s results brought to an end a busy year for Pennington.

Pennington’s name began to be mentioned as a possible candidate for governor following his campaign against the regional transportation SPLOSTs (special purpose local option sales taxes) in 2012.

Pennington campaigned vigorously across the state against referendums that would have created 10-year, 1 percent regional SPLOSTs to fund transportation programs. Those referendums lost in nine of 12 regions, including locally, and some of the anti-tax activists who fought those measures began to talk about a Pennington candidacy.

Pennington acknowledged in early 2013 that he was contemplating a run for governor, saying Deal and the GOP-controlled Legislature hadn’t done enough to deal with the state’s economy. He pointed to a number of economic reports showing how poorly the state is doing, including a study by the Corporation for Enterprise Development that ranked Georgia 50th in the nation in financial security.

Pennington said he didn’t sense any urgency to deal with those issues. He pointed to the failure of the Legislature to pass comprehensive tax reform during the previous three sessions. But Pennington acknowledged that unseating an incumbent governor would be a difficult task.

Pennington filed the paperwork in July 2013 to raise money for a run for governor and stepped up his speaking engagements, talking to conservative activists, county Republican Party meetings, tea party groups and civic organizations from Ellijay to Sea Island to Blackshear to Rome.

But he did not officially kick off his campaign for governor until November 2013 with a video message to his supporters across the state followed by an event at the trade center attended by many of Whitfield County’s top business leaders.

Pennington won a number of straw polls at Republican meetings and gatherings of activists across the state, but actual polls generally showed him with support ranging from the high single digits to the mid teens.

And Pennington trailed Deal in fundraising throughout the campaign. In November, for instance, Deal reported he’d raised more than $7.6 million in the previous six months and had $4.1 million on hand while Pennington had raised less than $375,000 and had less than $275,000 on hand.

But Pennington said he expected Deal to outspend him and was counting on his grassroots support to overcome some of Deal’s advantages in raising money.

Pennington indicated Tuesday night he isn’t considering another run for office.

“My political career before this was as a part-time mayor. I’m a businessman and a private person,” he said. “In fact, if there was any downside to this it was a loss of some of my privacy. I intend to go back to my business and my private life.”

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