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Carter's star power takes on Georgia's red state politics

10:01 PM, Nov 7, 2013   |    comments
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Jason Carter with wife Kate and sons Henry and Thomas, as Carter qualifies to run for Governor of Georgia in 2014

ATLANTA -- "I'm running for Governor because I believe in Georgia at its best," Jason Carter said at the outset of an announcement that lasted all of forty four seconds and included no questions afterward. "Georgia at its best," he said, included more money for education and fewer ethical questions surrounding government.

Carter entered and exited the announcement with his wife and two sons in tow. It is family that makes Carter unique in Georgia politics. When he first ran for a state senate seat in a DeKalb County district three years ago, Jason Carter campaigned with Jimmy Carter. The former president is Carter's grandfather.

After Jason Carter won that race, he rose quickly to a spot approaching stardom in a state Democratic party wracked by statewide losses to Republicans. Now Carter aims to unseat the state's top Republican, Gov. Nathan Deal. Deal's spokesman, Brian Robinson, says Carter's appearance won't alter the GOP's red state advantage. "Republicans have an inherent advantage here in the state because the voters prefer those conservative low tax values over the liberal high tax values of the opposition," said Robinson.

But Democrats are banking on disaffection with Deal -- and a rapidly changing population demographic that includes more traditionally Democratic voters of color. "The demographics have changed, you know," said former Sen. Connie Stokes (D-DeKalb County), who is running for Lieutenant Governor. "I believe that Georgia is a Democratic state."

Every statewide elected office in Georgia is held by a Republican. No Democratic presidential candidate has won Georgia since 1992.

President Carter issued a statement Thursday regarding his grandson's candidacy: Rosalynn and I are very excited about Jason's announcement. 

We believe that Jason has done great things for Georgians through his service in the State Senate and volunteer work throughout the state. Georgia faces serious challenges ahead and would greatly benefit from a smart and fresh leader focused on improving our schools, creating opportunities for a more prosperous middle class, and restoring a sense of trust and transparency back to state government. We are proud that he's running and look forward to what's ahead. 

Some Democrats have suggested that Jason Carter would have a better chance of success if he waited until 2018. But by then, the Democratic field is likely to be more crowded -- perhaps including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. In 2014, Jason Carter will all but have the Democratic primary to himself.

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