After several months gauging support around the state, Dalton Mayor David Pennington is officially announcing his campaign for governor today and formally entering the race.
In a video message to his thousands of supporters throughout the state, the conservative mayor announced his decision this morning.
"Our next governor needs to be someone people can trust, not someone who is in the world's newspapers with personal ethics problems," said Pennington in the video. "Our next governor needs to be someone who spent his lifetime creating jobs, not playing politics in Washington. Our next governor needs to be a real conservative — not just in words, but in deeds."
Pennington notes that as mayor he was given a Guardian of Ethics Award, that he donates his mayor's salary to fund local scholarships, that he has spent his lifetime creating jobs as a small businessman, and that he has a proven record of cutting spending and taxes including a whopping 28 percent property tax cut.
Over the last few months, Pennington has raised several hundred thousand dollars for his campaign committee. Pennington has also been gathering support across the state.
Pennington's formal entry comes on the heels of two significant events over the weekend showing his broad base of support. First, the Georgia Republican Assembly, one of the most influential conservative groups in the state, voted in a straw poll an overwhelming 65 percent to 35 percent in support of Pennington over Gov. Nathan Deal. Hours later, a large gathering of official Republican Party committees in West Georgia voted a tie in their straw poll giving both Pennington and Deal 41 percent — an indication Pennington is catching on with both grassroots leaders and Republican officials.
A full copy of Pennington'ts announcement text is below:
"For too long, too many politicians have put themselves before the people. They forgot campaign promises are not just to win elections; they are a trust between the candidate and the people. It is time for people of Georgia to have pride again in our state — to have confidence that whoever sits in the governor's chair has their best interests at heart.
"Our next governor needs to be a real conservative — not just in words, but in deeds. Real job growth with higher wages, lower taxes, eliminating wasteful spending, improved local control in education, lower cost health care with less government, and real welfare reform do not need not be promises in the future; they need to be reality today.
"Our next governor needs to be someone who has spent their lifetime creating jobs and accomplishing these goals, not someone who learned to play politics in Washington; someone people can trust, not someone who is in the world's newspapers with personal ethics problems. My standard of ethical behavior is not legal or illegal; it is what is right or wrong.
"I'm David Pennington and that's why I am running for governor of Georgia.
"The problems we have here in Georgia are stark. Working Georgians' incomes are now ranked down where they were in 1979. Georgia has trailed the nation with the national economy growing a full 71 percent faster than ours for much of the last decade. Today, we are ranked 34th out of 50 in the Tax Foundation's annual State Business Tax Climate index — a key indicator, and a bad one, of whether businesses will come here to create jobs. And for a time under our current governor, Georgia has the highest unemployment rate of any state in the Southeast.
"It is time for a new course.
"As a successful small businessman who has created jobs in multiple businesses for decades; I understand what must be done to turn around our economy. I have done it in government. As a mayor I cut taxes and streamlined government. I cut business license fees up to 50 percent and streamlined the permitting process to shorten the time for a new business to get up and running — to shorten the time for them to create jobs. While the area around my city is still struggling, our city is doing well.
"As a job creator, I know job growth is not going to come from higher taxes, even for regional transportation. It does not come from taxing private car sales. Economic growth doesn't come from failed stimulus schemes or growing government. Those are the failed policies of our current governor.
"Economic growth comes from unleashing our job creators; that is why I support the elimination of the Georgia income tax. We need comprehensive tax reform led by an income tax cut.
"We were the second least competitive state in the Southeast until a month ago when North Carolina passed their tax reform. They've officially made us the most uncompetitive state in the region.
"Georgia has lost 14 percent of its jobs paying more than $50,000 a year and added 15 percent to its Medicaid rolls during the recovery. The wrong numbers are going up and the right numbers are going down. Can you imagine the next recession?
"Texas has no state income tax and has enjoyed a lower unemployment rate than Georgia. Florida has no income tax. Since their Republican governor took control, Florida's unemployment rate has dropped a full 35 percent. Here in Georgia, once again, we are behind.
"We are behind both Florida and even the nation in lowering our unemployment rate since the recession. Florida with its Republican governor and even the nation under Obama are both outperforming Georgia; that's sad.
"And while our current governor talks about jobs created, most of them have been minimum wage and part-time jobs with no health benefits; that must change. We need to eliminate the state's income tax and become a magnet for job growth, higher wages and true long-term economic growth.
"As a mayor, I proved you can cut taxes even in tough economic times. In fact, I cut property taxes by a full 28 percent. A 28 percent tax cut even at the local level where waste, fraud and abuse are not as prevalent as in big government.
"You see, cutting taxes and reducing the size of government is not a campaign promise; I have done it. I cut government bureaucracy, and I cut taxes.
"Our current governor has increased spending by almost $2.5 billion in three years. That is going in the wrong direction.
"We can reduce the size of Georgia government, deliver more efficient services and lower taxes. It takes a proven businessman at the helm, not a Washington-trained politician.
"And while we are reducing our expenses, we need to examine the cost of welfare. We have all seen or heard of welfare abuse, where people who want a hand-out stand in front of the line taking from those who need a hand-up.
"We need to ensure taxpayers are protected when it comes to our welfare programs. I will work to initiate every welfare reform possible to protect those who only need a hand-up to the next paycheck rather than handing out taxpayer money to those who only want a hand-out.
"Part of giving our citizens a hand-up to a better life lies in ensuring our kids and grandkids have the best education possible. And, I believe, that starts with giving parents and local communities control in their children's education.
"Education decisions are best made in the home and at the local school board level; and I will work to empower parents and local decision-makers, not bureaucrats. I will provide support for education reforms that leave control at the local level, while encouraging a rigorous education and economic growth.
"While we teach our kids their ABCs, we also need to teach them right from wrong — not only to keep crime down and protect our communities, but also to ensure we have a society and state in which we can be proud to live.
"That starts with the governor's office. We don't need backroom deals or deal making hiding ethics documents. I believe in a different course. I am proud to have received the Rotary award as a Guardian of Ethics.
"I believe elected officials are there to serve the public — not themselves. That is why I donate my mayor's salary to a local college funding scholarships.
"Georgians need to be proud of their governor. I am proud of Georgia. I want Georgia to be great again.
"My family tree goes back in Georgia to 1751. My wife Pam and I have raised our son and daughter in Georgia, and we are proud grandparents. Family is important, and we need to empower Georgia families.
"I believe life is precious and that it should be valued at the moment of conception. That is a belief I will take into the governor's office.
"I believe we are endowed by our creator with inalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I will work to protect the Second Amendment as part of those rights and to ensure that we preserve the Georgia way of life.
"Liberty is not just a word; it is an ideal. It is the bedrock on which our country was created. I intend to protect liberty as your next governor.
"Our challenges are great but our opportunities are even greater.
"I have proven we can streamline government, cut taxes, improve services and bring ethics to government. Now I need your help to take it to the governor's office.
"Please volunteer for my campaign, take a lawn sign, ask for a bumper sticker and contribute financially so I can face the onslaught of special interest money. Do it all by visiting my website at www.DavidForGeorgia.com. Every volunteer hour and every dollar contributed puts us one step closer to building a better Georgia.
"Together we will make our state, Georgia, great once again. God bless you, and God bless the great state of Georgia."