ALBANY. Ga. -- Trying to drum up last-minute votes to put her ahead of former Republican Congressman Nathan Deal in an Aug. 10 runoff, former Secretary of State Karen Handel pledged Wednesday to leave Southwest Georgia's water supply untouched and to reform Georgia's educational system.
Handel was greeted with a round of applause from almost 30 supporters when her "Bring it On" bus tour stopped in Albany Wednesday at the Thronateeska Heritage Center on West Roosevelt Avenue.
After shaking hands and greeting several of her supporters who were decked out in green -- Handel's campaign color -- the former secretary of state and the crowd took refuge from the mid-morning heat in the center's Chautauqua Room.
Speaking bluntly about her vision for Georgia, Handel told supporters issues such as education reform, creating employment opportunities and wading through the state's water crisis would be top priorities for her as Georgia's governor.
The Republican candidate said Georgia has assets all across the state that could be used to generate revenue and employment opportunities.
Speaking of Albany specifically, Handel said tapping into the presence of the Marine Corps Logistics Base could be a key component in creating employment in this community.
"We have the opportunity to grow jobs with the base here," she said. "We need to be strategic about what types of companies want to do business with the base and bring them into the community."
Handel also told supporters that as governor she would not "pit our state regions against each other" when it came to water issues. She promised to leave Southwest Georgia's water supply untouched and that water from one area would not be taken and given to another area of the state.
Handel said that as Georgia's first female governor she would shake up the state's government.
"As governor I'm going to be a bold reformer, and I'm going to stand up to the status quo," she said.
Deal, a former congressman from north Georgia, and Handel are battling for the Republican nomination for governor in next week's runoff. They were the top vote-getters in the July 20 primary, where Handel outpolled Deal by 11 percentage points.
Handel's campaign has been gaining national attention since receiving an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Palin will headline a rally in the metro Atlanta area for Handel on the eve of Georgia's Republican runoff.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has also publicly backed Handel's bid for governor.
Handel said that while she appreciates Palin and Romney's support and the backing of numerous other local elected officials, she stressed the importance of the support of individual voters.
"The most important endorsement is the individual that votes in the runoff," said the gubernatorial hopeful.
Handel has recently come under fire with the State Ethics Commission after a complaint surfaced alleging she illegally paid $13,200 to advisors of her gubernatorial campaign with money raised as a candidate for secretary of state.
The candidate said her opponents in the race for governor were the ones who filed the ethics complaints against her and that she is confident that those complaints will be dismissed.
Karen Kemp, executive director of the Lily Pad SANE Center and a Republican candidate for the House District 150 seat currently held by Democrat Winfred Dukes, said she believes in Handel's vision for Georgia and that the candidate has a proven track record of reform.
"She takes a no-nonsense approach to government. I feel her vision for the future of Georgia is the right vision," said Kemp. "I'm excited about the future of the state with Karen at the helm."