The one candidate with no political experience was the big winner of a Republican Jewish Coalition straw poll on the Georgia governor’s race Sunday, March 11.
Clay Tippins, a business executive and consultant and a Navy SEAL, was the clear favorite of the more than 100 people who attended the RJC’s job-interview forum for the top five Republicans in the race: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, state Sen. Michael Williams, former state Sen. Hunter Hill and Tippins.
Each of the five candidates faced the audience and moderator Chuck Berk, an RJC co-chair, alone for about 20 minutes. Each made opening and closing statements, answered the same four questions about transportation, the economy, education and Israel, and took a few audience questions.
In the voting that followed, Tippins was the first choice of 42 percent and the second choice of 26 percent. Hill was the first choice of 26 percent and the second choice of 30 percent.
Williams did worst as a first choice, getting 9 percent, but was second-best as a second choice with 27 percent.
Kemp and Cagle each got 12 percent of the first-choice ballots. Kemp got 11 percent as a second choice, compared with 6 percent for Cagle, who was the last speaker and presumably the freshest in the audience’s minds.
The AJT will post video highlights from the event at atlantajewishtimes.com and on our YouTube channel.
A few highlights from the two hours of discussion:
- Williams tried to set himself apart from the field by claiming the earliest and strongest support for President Donald Trump and dismissing any gun control efforts. He noted that after last year’s Las Vegas massacre led to calls for a ban on bump stocks, which make semiautomatic rifles fire at an automatic rate, he gave away a bump stock.
- Williams and Hill called for eliminating the state income tax. Tippins said that’s not feasible, but the rate can be cut below 4 percent.
- The idea of extending Interstate 16 from Savannah through middle Georgia to help port freight bypass Atlanta had wide support, as did more school choice and better support for vocational education.
Kemp came alive when it was suggested that the Republican nominee will likely face Democrat Stacey Abrams, with whom he has clashed over voter registration, in the general election. “I can’t wait.”
- All five emphasized their experience running businesses, and all but Kemp and Cagle presented themselves as nonpoliticians.
- Hill, an Army Ranger who did three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, wore an American flag lapel pin. Tippins wore a Navy SEAL pin. Kemp wore a pin with the American and Israeli flags. Williams and Cagle skipped the lapel pins went with pocket squares instead — white for Williams, mostly blue and green for Cagle.
The five RJC invitees are among seven Republicans seeking to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal, who can’t run again after two terms. Eddie Hayes, identified only as a restaurant owner, qualified just before the deadline Friday, March 9.
Marc Alan Urbach of Dunwoody, who ran a write-in campaign for president in 2016, also qualified as a Republican and attended the RJC forum as a spectator. Urbach still identified as an Orthodox Jew when he announced his gubernatorial campaign last summer, but he has since embraced Jesus and now calls himself a Christian on his website.
The two Democrats in the race are Abrams and fellow former state Rep. Stacey Evans.
The qualifying for county, state and congressional seats was held March 5 to 9. In the 6th Congressional District, incumbent Karen Handel doesn’t face a primary challenge, but four Democrats are battling to run against her in the fall: Jewish businessman Kevin Abel, former TV news anchor Bobby Kaple, community organizer Lucy McBath and management consultant Steven Griffin.
The two Jewish members of the legislature, Sen. Renee Unterman and Rep. Michele Henson, are both seeking re-election. Republican Unterman has general-election competition against Jana Rodgers; Democrat Henson faces Joscelyn O’Neil in the primary.
Newcomer Jen Slipakoff has no competition for the Democratic nomination for a West Cobb seat in the House that is being vacated by Earl Ehrhart; Ehrhart’s wife, Ginny, and two others are running for the GOP nomination. Alex Kaufman is unopposed for the Republican nomination for an open Sandy Springs House seat and will face Democrat Josh McLaurin in the fall. Michael Wilensky has the Democratic nomination for an open House seat in Dunwoody and will face Republican Kenneth Wright in November.
Other Jewish candidates on the ballot for the May 22 primary include:
- Lindy Miller, a member of the AJT’s 40 Under 40, who faces John Noel and Johnny White in the Democratic primary for the right to challenge incumbent Chuck Eaton for a seat on the state Public Service Commission.
- Cindy Zeldin, running against Janice Laws in the Democratic primary for insurance commissioner. Three Republicans also are running.
- Former congressional candidate Allan Levene, seeking an open state House seat in Cartersville against Matthew Gambill. No Democrat is running.
- Gavi Shapiro is challenging Republican incumbent Deborah Silcox for a House seat in Sandy Springs, with Democrat Shea Roberts awaiting the winner.
- Bobby Wolf, a member of The Temple, is running for an open Fulton County Superior Court seat in a nonpartisan election against Fani Willis and Kevin Farmer.