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Kemp visits Dawson County on first stop of bus tour
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Brian Kemp poses with the Sizemore family in Dawson County Oct. 1 on the first stop of his Putting Georgians First bus tour. - photo by Allie Dean

Previously updated: Oct. 1, 2018, 1:16 p.m.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp was greeted by a hundred eager faces when he stepped off the bus this morning in Dawson County for the first stop on a week-long campaign tour.

Local elected officials, law enforcement and emergency services personnel as well as dozens of Dawson residents gathered at John Megel Chevrolet on Ga. 400 to hear from the gubernatorial candidate, who will face off against Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams on Nov. 6.

The “Putting Georgians First” bus tour will hit 27 counties this week.

Kemp touched on a few key points of his campaign in a brief address to the crowd, including taxes, education and law enforcement.

He said if elected, he plans to support further tax cuts like the billion-dollar cut the state legislature passed earlier this year.

“I’m planning as governor to sign another tax cut to continuate that this coming year,” Kemp said.

State lawmakers cut the state income tax rate in response to the federal tax cut bill signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2017. Changes at the national level would have created a huge windfall for Georgia state government — practically creating a tax increase at the state level.

Republican lawmakers in Atlanta acted to head off the windfall by passing the state’s first income tax cut in decades, though rates for most Georgians and the revenue for state government will be close to the same as they were before the federal income tax cut.

He also told the gathered supporters that  he plans to focus on deregulation of businesses and creating an environment in the state that supports small  business.

“I started my first company with a pickup truck, a shovel and a tool box,” Kemp said. “My plan is to create an environment in our state where we have less regulation, we have a low cost of doing business and low taxes.”

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Brian Kemp addresses the crowd gathered at John Megel Chevrolet Oct. 1. - photo by Allie Dean

His plans for education include raises for teachers, less standardized testing and more local control.

“I want to expand Pre-K, I want to protect the HOPE Scholarship,” he said. “I want to have less testing, less state mandates, more local control when it comes to our hardworking teachers a pay raise, lowering taxes and letting them teach our children...they know what to do in their local community a lot better than some bureaucrat in the state government or the federal government does."

Kemp has proposed a permanent annual teacher pay raise of $5,000, which would cost about $6 million a year. 

Kemp told the Gainesville Times on Sept. 20 that he would also allocate funds for safety improvements through the establishment of a school safety division within the Georgia Department of Education, as well as address mental health by funding at least one support counselor in every high school.

Kemp said he also has a plan to stop and dismantle street gangs.

“We have over 70,000 street gang members here in the state of Georgia. After talking with law enforcement and prosecutors, I have come up with a plan to go after and dismantle those individuals, that is what we need to do to build off the great things that Gov. Nathan Deal and Congressman (Doug) Collins have done on criminal justice reform,” Kemp said. “This is the next step, we have got to keep our families safe.”

State Senator Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, spoke to the crowd about the importance of voting in the upcoming election.

“This is an important year for so many reasons, but we’ve got an opportunity to send a good Republican to the governor's mansion in January,” Gooch said. “You need to get your families and your friends, people at church and at work, everybody has got to get out and vote this year in order to keep this office in Republican hands.”

Dawson County voted overwhelmingly Republican in November 2016, voting 85 percent for President Donald Trump with voter turnout at 71 percent.

Voter turnout numbers for past gubernatorial elections have been much lower.

Dawson County voter turnout in 2010 for the gubernatorial election came in at 57 percent and in 2014 even lower at around 50 percent.

“We are in a fight of our lives right now,” Kemp said. “For the people who are saying we’ve got this in the bag, we do not. We’re in great shape, we’re going to win, but we can’t win if anybody stays at home. Don't let showing up this morning be the last thing you do for this campaign. Let it be the start.”

Other stops on the 'Putting Georgians First Tour' on Monday included one at Appalachian Gun, Pawn & Range in Pickens County and one in Fannin County. He will host a stop at River Street Tavern in Gilmer County at 2 p.m., one at First National Community Bank in Murray County at 3:30 p.m. and one in Whitfield County at 5:30 p.m.

Throughout the week he will also be stopping by Floyd, Bartow, Haralson, Douglas, Coweta, Spalding, Sumter, Lee, Mitchell, Cook, Tift, Clinch, Coffee, Irwin, Dodge, Houston, Peach, Laurens, Washington, Richmond and Hart Counties.

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Brian Kemp poses for a photo Oct. 1 during the first stop of his 27-county bus tour. - photo by Allie Dean