ATLANTA - After months of speculation, state Sen. Jason Carter, the grandson of former president Jimmy Carter, has told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he is running for governor.
The 38-year-old Democrat said Georgia cannot wait, because the education system is on the brink.
“I wouldn’t be getting in this race if I didn’t think I was going to win. I’m still mad that I finished second in my law school class. I’m not in this to finish second,” Carter said.
Carter filed his official paperwork Thursday at 10 a.m. with the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission.
In a Republican state like Georgia, Carter faces an uphill battle in fundraising. Carter is counting on a bruising Republican primary.
Incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal has two primary challengers for 2014. Carter could also get a boost because Democrat Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, is the front-runner in the U.S. Senate race.
“I think there will be a lot of nostalgia for those of us who covered politics in Georgia for a long time,” political analyst Bill Crane said.
The younger Carter said partisan folks may have opinions about his grandfather’s presidency, but he said his campaign will be about the future, not his family.
“It’s a brand in Georgia with staying power and cache, but it’s also a brand that connotes, in a lot of people’s minds, liberalism and a failed presidency,” Crane said.
Sources said former state Sen. Connie Stokes, a Democrat who has already announced she’s running for governor, will step aside and run for Lt. governor instead.
Carter said he will not step down from the state Senate while he campaigns for governor.
Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn released a statement about Jason's announcement:
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.
More info on Carter's run for governor:
On why he is challenging the governor now instead of waiting for an open seat in 2018:
We can't wait as a state. I've been traveling and talking to educators and parents around the state. Our education system is on the brink. And we need to redirect our state so we can have Georgia at its very best.
On whether he may face an easier election in five years:
"You're talking politics and inside baseball. We can't wait as a state. The bottom line is we can't afford four more years of an economy that's not working for middle class and an education system that's underfunded. It's not about politics. It's about making sure we can get the state that we need.
On his main criticisms of Gov. Deal:
"What I hear around the state is people are concerned about making education a priority. He hasn't done it. Democrats and Republicans agree the way he handled our education system is just not good enough. You've got a Republican state school superintendent who can't take it any more and who has sacrificed his political career to run against the governor, and he very well may win. People from both parties believe we need to do better with education."
On what he would do to address his concerns if elected:
"The first thing we have to do is restore some accountability for the politicians in Atlanta on how we fund K-12 education. Right now it's a shell game. We need to have a better discussion in our state on what it should like here. And we'll have proposals on how to do that."
On challenges also facing higher education:
"There is less educating going on in this state today. We have 9,000 fewer teachers in K-12 than in 2009, according to the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. That has an impact on students and an impact on families. ... We've had thousands of people who have left technical college because of Gov. Deal's bad decisions. You can't afford more of those. ... We've reduced access to education. We've had fewer college students than we would have had. We can't afford to keep going down that road."
On how he would improve Georgia's economy:
"Job creation is important but we do not right now have an economy that works for the middle class. One of the things that I have done is fought to give small businesses the same benefits that giant corporations get, and the governor stood in the way. We need to be able to recognize that it's not about getting one or two big headlines for job creation. It's about having a business environment where small businesses and others can generate jobs. That's where job creation comes from. It doesn't come from magazine rankings. At the end of the day, our employment numbers are lagging behind the rest of the country at the end of the day."
On Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's friendship with Deal:
"Kasim Reed has done a great job of working across party lines. When I'm the governor and when he's the mayor, we'll work together to continue doing that same thing, working with Republicans in the Legislature and across the state."
On why he's not stepping down from the state Senate:
"There's too many debates and discussions we have to have in the Senate to quit because of political fundraising. This campaign, it isn't about politics, it's about solving problems. We think we can do a lot better if we're still in the Senate."
On fundraising challenges against an incumbent governor:
"I wouldn't be getting in this race if I didn't think I was going to win. I'm still mad that I finished second in my law school class. I'm not in this to finish second. I think we have every opportunity to win."
On President Carter's role in the campaign:
"He's my grandfather and he cares about me and we talk. But at the end of the day this campaign will be about getting Georgia back to where it needs to be. It's about the future and not my family. Obviously, I'm proud of him and he gives me a lot of advice and most of the time I take it."
On whether he can tap into his grandfather's donor base:
As far as raising money we know we're up against giant moneyed interests and we're going to do everything we can to win. But I'll say this: One of the most important things my grandfather taught me is that it's much more important to be a good person than a good politician. We're not going to go and compromise anything just so we can raise money to compete. We're going to run the race that we want and I think we're going to be well resourced enough to win.
On whether the president will be an asset or a liability:
"At the end of the day, partisan people may have opinions, but it's rare for me to meet somebody who thinks he's a bad person. And that's the judgment that ultimately he cares about, and the one that makes me proud of him."
On your proudest accomplishments in the Senate:
"I've led bipartisan coalitions to ensure that we were not taking money away from public education and to ensure that we weren't giving the governor an unlimited ability to raise taxes on hospitals. I have sponsored a great amount of bipartisan legislation. The relationships I've made with Republicans down there have helped me be effective. It's convinced me that, unlike Washington, folks in Georgia can work together across party lines to solve problems."
On his potential path to victory:
"The path to victory is clear. You have an incumbent governor whose favorability ratings are very low. And that's unsustainable. There wasn't some great change. It's because at the end of the day after spending time traveling around the state and talking to people, a lot of people have realized we just can't wait. We just can't afford to let this continue on the path that we're on.
"At the end of the day there's enough people who believe that and are sick of the middle class getting left out, they're sick of the education system being undermined. And frankly they are looking to a restoration of an honest government that people can trust to work for everybody and not just for high value political donors or well-placed friends."
On the ethics questions facing Gov. Deal:
"I don't know how they affect our campaign, frankly. But I do feel like we need to get the investigations over. I don't know what the facts are, but the investigations are embarrassing for the state. So hopefully we can put that behind us."
On your campaign mantra:
"We want a Georgia that's at its best. And Georgia at its best invests in education, it doesn't cut billions out of the classroom, it has an economy that works for the middle class and it always has an honest government."
On how things have changed since the 2010 campaign:
"The political environment is different now. Gov. Deal was running on promises then. He has to run on his record now."
On how he'll position himself:
"My record in the Senate is what it is. I have been a fiscal conservative, a pro-business Democrat. At the end of the day, I think we need a government that's small and effective. And what we've lost track of is the effectiveness. Government is not working to support our education system. It's not working to support the middle class. It's not working to support small business."