This is one of five profiles of Republican candidates for Georgia governor. In each, the AJT seeks the candidate’s views on issues of particular interest to the Jewish community. See links to the other four profiles, as well as our dual profile of the two women seeking the Democratic nomination, below.
Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp considers himself a hardworking Georgian, small-business owner and family man — values he also sees in the Jewish community.
Kemp has worked in the private sector for more than 30 years and said support for small-business owners, his family and devotion to Georgia prompted him to enter politics. “Working in the local community and trying to build a business that I literally started with a truck and a couple of shovels in the back for a construction company ended up getting me into a lot of different things.”
Kemp is the founding director of a community bank just north of Athens, First Madison Bank and Trust and owns Kemp Property, a stone business, as well as construction, manufacturing and agricultural companies.
“I just got really frustrated dealing with government regulations, high taxes and not having someone in office that has the common sense of small-business owners,” he said.
Kemp was elected to the state Senatin in 2002, then was elected secretary of state in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014.
Read about the other leading Republicans in the governor’s race:
He has remained a small-business owner, dealing with payroll, government regulations and taxes and surviving economic recessions. Those skills are essential for the next governor of Georgia, he said.
“When I got in office, that is exactly what I did: I fought government regulations, for streamlining and making the government more efficient and doing more with less. Things Republicans talk about but sometimes don’t do, and that’s why I am running for governor,” Kemp said. “We need a governor that continues to make us the No. 1 state in the country to do business, keep our economy rolling and put Georgians first, ahead of the special interest groups.”
Kemp has legislative experience, but he said what sets him apart in the gubernatorial race is that he is the only candidate who has run a large executive branch agency. “It’s a very big job and dealing with a lot of people and critical duties, and nobody else in the race has that kind of experience.”
As a business owner, Kemp said he wants to fundamentally reform how the state government spends and taxes. The effort begins by implementing a spending cap, budgeting conservatively and redirecting funding to public safety, education, health care and transportation. “A lot of people in this race are talking about cutting the state income tax, but they are not saying how they are going to pay for it. And many have served in the legislature and were never able to accomplish that.”
Kemp supports school choice. He wants to provide parents more freedom to do what is best for their children, which is why he backed House Bill 217 to increase the tax credit for donations to support scholarships at private schools from $58 million to $100 million.
He also supports public education. “We currently have too much testing in our schools, are requiring too much government paperwork and mandates on teachers and administrators at the local level, which is part of my plan to cut red tape and streamline government.”
One of his first endeavors as governor would be an economic and trade mission to Israel, he said, and he supports the relationship Georgia has with Israel. “Israel is the 33rd largest export market for Georgia, which is certainly important to us from an economic standpoint, and our total exports to Israel are over $250 million a year, which has incurred a 60 percent increase since 2013,” Kemp said. “Trade has to be good both ways, and I think we have certainly seen that with our relationship with Israel, and I will continue that as governor.”
Similarly, Kemp supports 2016’s Senate Bill 327, restricting business with entities that boycott, divest from or sanction Israel. “I will not allow and will continue to fight against businesses who participate in BDS, and I will continue to support Israel in that regard.”
As secretary of state, Kemp has been active in Jewish community events and worked with people who have made it easier to conduct business with Israel, including the purchase of Israel Bonds, he said.
“Purchasing Israel Bonds is not only good for us economically, but also sends a clear message that we are staunch supporters of Israel,” Kemp said. “Israel Bonds serve a decisive role in the rapid and groundbreaking evolution of technology, such as green tech and biotech, which also is good for Georgia because we can learn from that.”
Kemp said he has laid out several plans to dismantle gangs in Georgia. “These individuals are targeting a lot of people, and they are only after one thing, which is money to help with their drug trade and claim their territory, and it is time we have a governor to put a stop to that.”
He said he would not allow discrimination against anyone, but, instead of a hate-crimes law, he said any crime that targets people should have equal treatment of the law.
He also is a strong supporter of religious freedom legislation.
“There have been numerous proposals of the religious liberty bill since it first came out,” Kemp said. “But I would sign a state law which references the federal statute signed by Bill Clinton. That is a right and foundation of our country which I will fight for, but (I) will not allow the state to discriminate.”
Kemp said he possesses a strong connection to Israel and the Jewish community. “Israel is a legitimate country, and I completely support their right to exist,” he said. “Similarly, members of the Jewish community are very faithful and family-oriented, which I am as well and is the reason why I believe I should earn their vote and ask for their support as I campaign for governor.”
More on the governor’s race: