August 16, 2013

Deal invades Dalton

Pennington unconcerned

Charles Oliver

— Dalton businessman Bob Kinard says there was never any question that he’d support Gov. Nathan Deal in his bid for re-election.

“I supported him when he was in the state Senate. I supported him when he ran for Congress. I supported him the first time he ran for governor, and I’m certainly supporting him for re-election,” Kinard said.

Kinard was one of the people attending a fundraiser for Deal Thursday night at Trevitt Hall in Dalton. The event brought Deal into the hometown of the only announced challenger he has so far. Mayor David Pennington has said he plans to challenge Deal next year in the Republican primary.

Deal represented Georgia’s 9th Congressional District, including Whitfield County, in Congress for almost 20 years, and Kinard acknowledged that Deal and Pennington probably have many mutual supporters in this area.

“I think they’ll remain mutual supporters because they’ll vote for Nathan again in the general election,” he said.

For Dalton resident Myra Kinney Mitchell, support for Deal is personal.

“We go back many years. I went to high school with his wife Sandra. I know her family. I remember when she married Nathan, and I’ve followed their careers,” Mitchell said. “I know that Nathan is a good Christian, and Sandra is a former school teacher, so education is important to both of them. He is so intelligent, and they’ve given so much to their community and their state. I’m proud to have him as my governor.”

Mitchell said she also supports Deal because of his experience.

“His record speaks for itself,” she said.

Kinard agrees with that assessment.

“The main differentiation (between Deal and Pennington) is going to be in experience. Nathan has been in the state Senate. He’s been a congressman. He has been our governor for four years. He’s pretty well qualified to handle things for the next four years,” Kinard said.

Reached by telephone Thursday night, Pennington said there’s another difference between him and Deal.

“Voters are going to face a choice between an insider and an outsider. Nathan Deal has spent his entire career in government, while I come from a business background,” he said.

Pennington said he isn’t concerned about Deal holding an event in Dalton.

“It’s a statewide race. We’re both campaigning in every part of the state. I’ve been to Gainesville (Deal’s hometown),” he said.

Pennington will have his own fundraiser in Dalton on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the trade center. That event will be open to the public.

State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, one of the hosts of Deal’s fundraiser in Dalton, said he thinks Deal’s campaign is going well.

“I believe Gov. Deal has done an outstanding job. We are a AAA-rated state in our bonds. We have reduced the size of government. We have cut spending, and the economy is coming back,” he said.

Pennington says Deal and the Republican leadership in the General Assembly have failed to significantly cut the size of government and in fact have supported proposals that would have significantly increased the size of the state government, including a set of regional transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes (TSPLOSTs) that would have raised about $1.5 billion a year over 10 years. They were defeated in nine of 12 regions in the state, including locally.

State Rep. Bruce Broadrick, R-Dalton, attended Deal’s event. But he said he does not plan on making an endorsement in the gubernatorial race.

“I support the work that David has done in our community, and I support the work that Nathan has done in Washington and in Atlanta,” he said. “We have another session coming up that I’m going to be focused on, and I’ve got my own re-election  to work on.”

Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb also attended Deal’s event. He also said he isn’t going to make an endorsement in the race.

“The governor came to Dalton this afternoon. He met with (Murray County Sole Commissioner Brittany Pittman) and me. He was kind enough to give us an hour or so,” Babb said. “Just out of respect for the governor, I came to his event. And when the mayor has his event next week, you’ll see me there, too. Who am I going to vote for? That’s for me to know.”

Babb said he is certain either Deal or Pennington will be the state’s next governor.

“Who have the Democrats put up? So far, nobody has announced they intend to run. In four years, I expect we’ll see (Atlanta Mayor) Kasim Reed. But I can’t even imagine who the Democrats will put up next year,” he said.

According to a report Deal’s campaign filed with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, Deal raised $613,110 in the first six months of 2013 and had a campaign war chest of $1.1 million as of June 30. Pennington did not file the forms to raise money for a gubernatorial run until July 9, after the second quarter reporting period had ended.