Local News

May 24, 2014

Pennington says he will continue to push for change

— Former Dalton Mayor David Pennington is not planning to run for elected office again after unsuccessfully trying to unseat Gov. Nathan Deal in the Republican primary.

Pennington finished second last week with 99,330 votes (16.7 percent). Deal, the incumbent, easily won the contest with 429,242 votes (72.15 percent), while Georgia state school Superintendent John Barge finished with 66,380 votes (11.15 percent).

Despite the defeat, Pennington said he remains very concerned about Georgia’s future and plans to keep speaking out on challenges he says the state faces.

“I’m still vitally interested in two things,” Pennington said. “No. 1 is the Readers to Leaders initiative.”

Readers to Leaders is a joint effort by the city of Dalton, Whitfield County, Whitfield County Schools and Dalton Public Schools and others to make sure that every student is reading on at least grade level by third grade. Supporters say that studies show that children who aren’t reading at grade level by third grade are less likely to graduate from high school or attend college. In turn, children who don’t complete high school are less likely to find well-paying jobs and are more likely to be incarcerated.

Pennington said the program, which began about two years ago, could serve as a model for the state.

“I talked to people across the state about this, and I want Georgia Rotary to take this up as an issue. As I’ve told Rotarians, if Rotary can solve the polio problem around the world, it can solve this problem,” he said. “And the No. 1 problem facing Dalton and Georgia are these kids who come from difficult backgrounds, which are most of the kids in the state now. If we can’t get them off to a better start, we don’t have much future.”

Pennington said the second issue he will be active on is the economy, including publishing a monthly, Georgia-focused economic newsletter.

“One thing we found out (during the campaign) is how surprised people are when we gave them some of the numbers on how poorly Georgia is doing. The third-highest teenage unemployment rate in America. The fourth-highest long-term unemployment rate in America. The fifth highest-poverty rate,” Pennington said. “We are well on our way to becoming the poorest state in the nation.”

Pennington said the way to turn around Georgia’s economy is to cut the taxes and regulations he believes are holding business, especially small business, back.

“We’ve got to shrink government at every level, including locally,” he said.

Pennington said he doesn’t plan to campaign for or endorse any other candidates.

“I don’t see any candidates I could endorse,” he said, adding he doesn’t see any candidates out there who have convinced him they are serious about cutting government.

Pennington said the failure of Republicans to cut government is the reason the state is doing so poorly.

“At the turn of this century, Georgia was about to crack the top 20 in every economic category,” he said. “But after 12 years of Republican governors and 10 years of a Republican Legislature, we are in the bottom 10 if not the bottom five in every category. I’m not saying that Democrats would have been any better. They would have increased the size of government even faster, but it doesn’t seem like anyone even recognizes the problem.”

Ken Ellinger, an associate professor of political science at Dalton State College, said Pennington’s influence on the state will depend on the issues he advocates for and the time and energy he puts into his advocacy.

“There are already plenty of voices out there calling for cutting taxes and making government smaller. I’m not sure that one more voice is going to stand out or make a difference,” Ellinger said. “But if he decides to get behind putting more resources into early childhood education, he could make a big impact.”

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