Brian Kemp drops a big hint he’ll run for governor

Secretary of State Brian Kemp. AJC file/Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

Secretary of State Brian Kemp. AJC file/Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

Secretary of State Brian Kemp dropped a strong hint on Thursday he could seek Georgia’s highest office, telling a crowd of business leaders that he wants to use his “unique experience to help lead our state during the next decade.”

In remarks to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Athens Republican talked of his own struggles leading a real estate development business and a stone contractor – and stressed the need for more entrepreneurs to run for office.

“I am uniquely positioned to understand the challenges you face when it comes to running your business and, most importantly, having to deal with government red tape,” he said. “There are too few business-minded people in office, and you can see how that impacts our government.”

The field for the 2018 governor’s race is wide-open – and remains very unsettled. Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is likely to jump in, but Donald Trump’s victory scrambled the plans of other high-profile GOP candidates considering a run.

The Democratic side is just as uncertain. House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams is a likely candidate, and former state Sen. Jason Carter and one-time acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates are considered potential contenders as well.

Kemp, a former state senator, has long been considered a potential gubernatorial candidate and has tried to raise his profile by calling on Trump to investigate the Obama administration’s apparent attempt to access his office’s computer system. Of course, he could also choose to run for re-election, keeping a beachhead in statewide office.

He told the audience he would aim to pour more funding into the state’s technology infrastructure, overhaul “useless” regulations and send the message that “government will get out of your way.”

“It’s time for a top-to-bottom review of all state regulations by business owners, not bureaucrats,” he said. “To tackle what should stay and what should go.”

He also said the state should offer new incentives, such as tax breaks, to attract more businesses and invest in fiber and gigabit services to help foster the state’s growing financial technology industry.

Kemp closed his remarks with a nod to Gov. Nathan Deal’s most oft-used line about the state’s pro-business environment.

“As a small business owner and a state official,” he said, “I want to use my unique experience to help lead our state during the next decade to be not only the number one state for business, but the number one state for small businesses as well.”

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