Athens native Brian Kemp, seeking the Republican Party nomination in the 2018 gubernatorial election, told a gathering of Oconee County Republicans late last month that his experience as a small business owner sets him apart in the campaign.
“I have been a conservative, small business owner for over 30 years,” Kemp, who currently is Secretary of State, said. He said he is seeking the governor's office to “take that small business owner’s mentality and be the next CEO of the state.”
Kemp made his comments as the invited speaker at the regular May meeting of the Oconee County Republican Party, attended by just more than 30 people.
Kemp was followed to the podium by Chuck Williams, representing much of the county in the Georgia House of Representatives, who offered a warning for county Republicans.
Williams said he has become aware in the last few months of a “fired up” group of people who do not share the views of those in the room and that this newly energized group could “really impact some elections that typically we would not see impacted.”
Kemp said that Georgia has been named the top state in the nation in which to do business for the fourth consecutive year, and he wants to build on that and make the state number one for small businesses.
Kemp said rural Georgia has lots of challenges.
“Kids cannot get access to the Internet to do their homework,” he said, and young people don’t want to stay.
He said he is not being critical of what others have done, but he wants to “fundamentally” reform state government.
“Everybody wants change in government until it happens to their little bubble,” he said. “Then they’re like, ‘This isn’t going to work. This is one of those incidences where this is not going to work. You can do this somewhere else, but it won’t work here.’ I just don’t believe that.”
Kemp said he wants to put a cap on spending, tying it to population and inflation.
|Kemp At Oconee GOP Meeting|
“There are a lot of things that we spend money on sometimes that are better suited to go somewhere else,” he said.
He said he wants to “Do a real tax reform for returning that additional money into something that would be a statewide initiative that would help all of our people not a special interest.”
Kemp said he wants to do “Regulatory reform by business people, not bureaucrats.”
He said there are times when regulation is needed, but he said he is against over regulation.
“I have great appreciation for what government does,” Kemp said, but he said he knows that many people are frustrated with government.
“Sometimes it seems like those that are here illegally get more benefits and more things than we provide in government than our own hard working taxpayers do,” Kemp said.
“I’m a passionate about giving people health care,” Kemp said. “But our own people are getting priced out of health care now...You have people that are here illegally that are costing our hospitals millions every year.”
“My priority as governor is going to be to put Georgians first, not people who are here illegally,” Kemp said.
Kemp is only one of a number or declared or expected candidates for the Republican Party nomination for the governor’s office.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of Gainesville has announced his plans to run, as have state Sen. Hunter Hill, representing Buckhead, and Sen. Michael Williams of Cumming.
House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams of Atlanta and Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna are announced candidates on the Democratic side.
Kemp called both Abrams and Evans “smart” but said he feels he can beat either of them.
Kemp’s Business Experience
Kemp didn’t provide details of his business experience to those gathered for the May 25 Oconee County GOP meeting, since many know him and his background.
Kemp is a graduate of Clarke Central High School and of the University of Georgia and represented the area in the state Senate from 2002-2006. He has been Secretary of State since 2010.
Kemp’s campaign web site says that “While serving in public office, Brian Kemp has remained a small business owner with companies in agribusiness, financial services, real estate management and investment.”
Kemp serves on the State Properties Commission in his capacity as Secretary of State, and his biographical statement on the Commission web site says that he is the owner of Kemp Properties, “a small business specializing in real estate investments and property management.”
The data base of the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State lists Kemp as the registered agent of Kemp Properties LLC, 385 Creekstone Court, Athens-Clarke County.
When Kemp had finished his comments, Rep. Williams took the chance to tell those gathered that since the end of the legislative session in March he and Rep. Regina Quick have been “on the circuit a good bit in Clarke and Oconee counties.
Williams said he and Quick, who also represents parts of Oconee county and was present at the meeting, had visited with “different groups, you know, government groups, commissioners, mayors, neighborhood groups.”
“I wanted to share an observation that I think our Republican Party needs to be aware of,” Williams said.
“What I’m observing is a very energized, fired up, group of Democrats, progressives, liberals, whatever label you want to use, in our area. Certainly we’re seeing that in Clarke County and we’re seeing some of that in Oconee.”
“My sense is that those groups are really energized because of Trump’s election, Obamacare repeal and a lot of other issues,” Williams said. “They’re lashing out.”
Williams advised those present to “keep your ears to the ground. Listen to what you can,” and share that with members of the Oconee County Republican Party executive committee.
Superior Court Clerk
The meeting began with an introduction of those around the table and then a presentation by Angela Elder-Johnson, Oconee County Superior Court Clerk, of her work and of her office.
Elder-Johnson said that her office has scanned all deeds back to 1875, when the county was created. Her office is in the process of scanning all civil cases back to 1875 as well and plans to make these documents available online.
“We are working on trying to go bookless,” she said. “We are running out of room.”
Elder Johnson’s presentation was part of a series of presentations by the county’s elected constitutional officers at the county GOP meetings. All elected officials in Oconee County are Republicans.
Tax Commissioner Jennifer Riddle discussed the work of her office at the meeting in April.
I attended a meeting of a subcommittee of the Stakeholders Committee for the Oconee County Comprehensive Plan on the evening of the GOP meeting, but Sarah Bell attended the GOP meeting and recorded a video, which is below.
Tammy Gilland, chair of the county Republican Party, presided at the meeting.
Elder-Johnson’s comments begin at 4:25 in the video.
Brooks Fletcher, third vice chair of the county Republican Party, introduced Kemp, starting at 14:57 in the video.
Kemp starts to speak at 16:18.
Rep. Williams made his comments starting at 54:50.