ALBANY — GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp visited Albany Sunday on a campaign fundraising trip to Wynfield Plantation. It was Kemp’s second trip to the city, and he was eager to talk about the plight of rural Georgia.
“We’re one state, but there are a lot of different elements to Georgia,” Kemp said. “I’m the only candidate in the race to have visited all 159 counties. I did it before I ran for governor. We’ve worked with all 159 counties as the secretary of state, and I have been to almost every courthouse or courthouse annex in the state. I’ve visited with the chambers, I’ve sat down with the local newspapers, I’ve spoken to civic clubs, met with business and community leaders, law enforcement, farmers, educators and elections offices … the whole nine yards.
“Dealing with elections is a very localized thing. The precincts in Dougherty County are different than they are in Fulton or Cobb county.”
While Kemp was basically outlining his qualifications to be Georgia’s next governor, he was slowly working the conversation toward his plan to strengthen rural Georgia.
“Over a year ago, I put out a detailed plan to strengthen rural Georgia,” Kemp said. “I was talking about high-speed internet, I think, before anyone else was, even though the legislature had been working on that last year. At the start of the session two years ago, I made a speech to the NFIB (the small business association) long before I ever got in the governor’s race, talking about the need for high-speed internet in rural Georgia. But it’s more than just that.
“We need to do a lot of things in rural Georgia, because I’ve seen it myself. I’ve been in a rural manufacturing plant in Turner County, one of the poorest counties in the state. When I was involved in that business, I know how much those jobs mean to the local community, especially in rural counties.”
Kemp then pointed to some counties closer to Albany.
“Clay, Randolph, Stewart, Quitman … all of those counties are not only among some of the poorest in the state, but also among the poorest in the country,” he said. “Rural broadband doesn’t solve the problem. Like Stacey Abrams expanding Medicaid doesn’t solve the problem of rural hospitals. You have to have a bigger approach than that. We have to start working on high-speed internet in rural areas. I’m going to create an economic development strike team under the department of economic development, and their sole job and their whole job is going to work on strengthening rural Georgia.
“They will Focus on rural Georgia when it comes to projects of regional significance, working with the local communities, local businesses, private sectors, economic development authorities, and local governments. Look, I know not every county will want to do that or be able to do that. But there are those who can, and that’s where we start moving the needle.”