This is one of five profiles of Republican candidates for Georgia governor. In each, the AJT seeks the candidate’s views on issues of particular interest to the Jewish community. See links to the other four profiles, as well as our dual profile of the two women seeking the Democratic nomination, below.
Former Navy SEAL Clay Tippins has no political experience, but the business executive and consultant still won a Republican Jewish Coalition straw poll in March as the first choice of 42 percent of the people who attended a candidate forum.
Tippins said the combination of deep business and military experience may be better than a political background the next eight to 10 years.
One area where Tippins said he has used his experience as a SEAL is in the fight against sex trafficking. Metro Atlanta is one of the worst areas for sex trafficking. But some friends who served with Tippins have provided intelligence to police to help take down traffickers.
Tippins said he can use the techniques and methods he learned as a Navy SEAL to map out networks and catch criminals.
One of the most important challenges Georgia faces, Tippins said, is getting every third-grader to read.
Read about the other leading Republicans in the governor’s race:
“It’s the cornerstone of our future as a state and the cornerstone of every child’s life. You take a child that grows up in a poverty-stricken home; that child hears 30 million words less by the time they are 6, so that child has a 30-million-word crack running through his future,” he said. “You trace that crack out another 15 to 20 years, and it’s insurmountable. We call that prison beds, entitlements and lost tax revenue because that child is underemployed or unemployable.”
He said Gov. Nathan Deal has made progress on reading, “but I would seek to carry that forward and make it my most urgent education mission.”
Tippins said he supports tax credits for donations to private school scholarships and backs charter schools for bringing parents into the educational decision-making for their children.
Tippins stands firm against illegal immigration in Georgia. He said: “America has always been driven by legal immigration. It’s not right and fair for people who came here legally to have a different system from those who seek to come here illegally. We are simply a nation of laws, and that’s how we seek to secure the border, how to defund sanctuary cities. It isn’t an anti-immigrant status. It’s about illegal actions and having a nation-state with laws.”
Georgia is one of five states without a hate-crimes law, and two measures this spring that had the support of the Anti-Defamation League, House Bill 660 and Senate Bill 373, would have increased punishments for crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived race, religion, national origin, disability, gender, homeless status or sexual orientation. But neither even reached the House floor for a vote.
In a statement Tippins said: “Laws need to be clear for them to be enforced properly. Hate-crimes legislation has the potential for different judicial outcomes based on subjective decisions of prosecutors.”
While Tippins was deployed to the Middle East, he saw firsthand the threats to Israel. “Israel is never going to find a better partner than Clay Tippins, whether that is as a warrior, a governor or as a citizen,” he said. “I want to see our already strong relationship with Israel strengthened. As governor, I will work to build on the trading and cultural relationships. That is true of state government, but I also will encourage our local governments to engage in sister city relationships to allow our people, not just our governments, to grow closer.”
Tippins said he will build on the business relationships Gov. Nathan Deal cultivated during a trade mission to Israel in 2014. “I’ve built my business career in the high-tech industry. As governor, I will be dedicated to expanding markets for our state’s products but also working with our businesses to build partnerships, especially in the areas of health care, fintech and security, where both Georgia and Israel are already world leaders.”
Tippins supported Senate Bill 327, which passed in 2016, and as governor would continue to prevent Georgia from contracting with any companies that discriminate against Israel as part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, he said. “As a state and as a people, we can never be supportive of these anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli bullying tactics.”
Tippins also supports the purchase of Israel Bonds to help maintain ties between the Jewish state and Georgia. “The purchase of Israel bonds is a sound investment that sends a moral message,” he said. “The Israeli economy is one of the strongest in the world. Even during the Great Recession, Israel maintained positive economic growth, even as the other OECD and European economies dipped into negative territory.”
He added, “It also sends a statement to the world, using our dollars of support for the state of Israel.”
Republican-led efforts in recent years to enact religious liberty legislation in Georgia have run into interfaith opposition and a Deal veto in 2016. While several of his primary rivals have promised to sign such a bill, Tippins said, “I strongly support religious freedom and will do whatever it takes to defend it, but I won’t take pledges to sign undrafted legislation.”
He added, “I will continue to fight for our religious liberty with the same fervor with which I defended our country as a Navy SEAL. I’m a Christian, a man of faith, and believe the government should not trample on our beliefs. I will not sign any pledge regarding future undrafted legislation, including the RFRA pledge, but promise to veto any bill that enables lawsuits against people of faith.”
More on the governor’s race: