From Staff and Wire Reports
Dalton Mayor David Pennington officially kicked off his campaign for governor on Monday. But he says his campaign is already well ahead of where he hoped it would be at this point.
“We thought we’d still be grasping for airtime as far as getting people to let us come speak to them,” he said. “In fact, we’ve got so many requests for speaking engagements we can’t even keep up with them.”
Since announcing his candidacy in July, Pennington has crisscrossed the state speaking to conservative activists, county Republican Party meetings, tea party groups and civic organizations from Ellijay to Sea Island to Blackshear to Rome. And he says the pace is just getting more hectic.
“The rest of this week we’ll be all over the state following up on this media rollout we started today,” he said. “We’ll be heading to Augusta, Macon, Columbus, Valdosta, a lot of other places.”
Pennington began his day Monday with a meeting with local supporters before releasing a video message to his supporters across the state. He then followed that up with interviews with reporters from across the state.
“We’ve done all the major TV stations. We’ve done a couple of radio stations, and we are about to do an interview with the Atlanta Business Chronicle,” he said Monday afternoon.
Pennington will face incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal in the Republican primary next summer. State School Superintendent John Barge has also said he will challenge Deal in the GOP primary.
Over the weekend, Pennington’s campaign got a shot in the arm from two straw polls of Republican activists.
He bested Deal 65-35 percent in a straw poll among the Georgia Republican Assembly, and he tied Deal with 41 percent of the vote in a straw poll at a joint meeting of the Coweta and Fayette County Republican Parties. Barge had 11 percent in that second poll, and the rest were undecided.
“We expected to win the Republican Assembly, but we didn’t expect to win it by such an overwhelming margin,” Pennington said. “The one from west Georgia took us completely by surprise. We didn’t even know about the meeting over there, and I haven’t been over there yet.”
Tom Willis, executive director of the Deal campaign, said there’s no questioning the governor’s conservative credentials. Deal, a former Republican congressman, will be running on his economic record, touting efforts to create a business-friendly environment and pointing to economic development deals that have brought jobs to Georgia.
“Republicans know Gov. Deal has done an outstanding job as he carried our state through very tough times,” Willis said in a statement. “Republican voters want to see our conservative values kept in place in the governor’s office, and they know that only Nathan Deal can beat the Democrats in the general election.”
Pennington said his campaign has raised several hundred thousand dollars and will be making a major fundraising push through the rest of the year. The next campaign finance reports are due at the end of the year. As of June 30, Deal had $1.1 million in cash for his re-election bid.