Election 2020

Georgia's GOP Frontrunner for Governor in Hot Water over Corruption Allegations

Republican candidate for Georgia Gov. Casey Cagle speaks to his supporters as he enters a runoff with Brian Kemp during an election-night watch party in Gainesville, Ga., Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

The 2018 Georgia governor’s race has shaped up to be one of the most interesting in the state’s history. For the first time in the modern era, all of the Republican candidates have been members of the GOP for their entire political careers. This is, of course, as opposed to the last two Republicans — the first GOP governors since Reconstruction — who were Democrats before crossing the aisle during the Clinton years.

The Democratic side has been no less historical, with two women battling it out in the primary. Stacey Abrams, a far-left legislator who wants to become the first African-American female governor of any state, won out over Stacey Evans, a more centrist candidate who is also white.

Abrams will face the winner of the GOP runoff — either Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle or Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Cagle and Kemp have touted their conservative bona fides in their advertising. Cagle’s ads are so repetitive that one would think his name is actually “Conservative Casey Cagle.”

Kemp, on the other hand, turned heads in the first round of the primary with unconventional ads that emphasized his sense of humor as much as his political leanings.

The most recent polling shows Cagle over Kemp by seven points, but two recent allegations against Cagle may change the landscape of the race.

A recording from Clay Tippins, a GOP rival in the first round of the primary, has surfaced in which Cagle admits that he backed a school choice measure earlier this year in order to lure support and donations away from another Republican rival, Hunter Hill, even though Cagle personally opposed the bill.

As WSB-TV reported:

“What I’m doing is providing a window into Casey Cagle’s character,” Tippins said.

In the recording, Cagle says it wasn’t about policy, just politics.

“Is it bad public policy? Between you and me, it is. And I can tell you how it is (in) a thousand different ways,” Cagle said.

Tippins asked Cagle why the lieutenant governor turned his back on Tippins’ uncle, state Senator Lindsey Tippins, who fought against the legislation and resigned his chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee when it passed. Cagle’s reply let Clay Tippins know in no uncertain terms that his support had more to do with defeating Hill than ensuring educational choice for Georgia’s kids:

“Exactly the reason I told Lindsey that you need to listen to: It ain’t about public policy. It’s about sh** politics. There’s a group that was getting ready to put $3 million behind Hunter Hill,” Cagle said in the recording.

Cagle feared the Walton Family Foundation would make the money available for Hill’s gubernatorial campaign if Cagle didn’t push through legislation upping the amount of money Georgians could contribute to student scholarship organizations, called SSOs.

Clay Tippins claims that he does not want to be seen as a sore loser; rather, he wants to “take a stand” against Cagle to ensure “transparent government.” Lindsey Tippins verified his nephew’s story based on his own conversations with Cagle.

Cagle’s admission may violate a state law that prevents legislators from personally benefiting from the measures they pass — a felony — and all that stands between the lieutenant governor and potentially serious legal trouble is a vindictive district attorney calling a grand jury to investigate.

Cagle may also have benefited from his relationship with a lobbyist, in which he bought a condo at a discount from the lobbyist and sold it at a handsome profit. As the New York Times reports:

Real estate records show that Mr. Cagle, who faces a runoff for the Republican nomination on July 24, purchased the one-bedroom apartment at 24 percent less than its appraised value — below comparable sales prices — and sold it last year at a 29 percent profit. He was preparing for his first run for governor when, without an agent, he negotiated the deal with Terry E. Hobbs, a longtime lobbyist who represents the natural gas marketer Scana.

As lieutenant governor, Mr. Cagle presides over the Senate and controls the flow of legislation there. The direct financial transaction between him and a lobbyist with business before the government raises ethical questions…

Casey Cagle faces serious allegations on two ethical issues, and the timing of how these play out may be crucial to the future of the race. For the sake of conservatives in Georgia, let’s all hope that he faces them before his runoff with Brian Kemp and not later on, when they could damage his chances against a leftist with tons of funding from groups outside the state like Stacey Abrams.