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Secretary of State: Ga. Progressing as Primary Battleground

In Powder Springs on Wednesday, Brian Kemp said switching the responsibility of naming the voting date to his office from the legislature has furthered the state's relevancy in choosing a party candidate.

This is a unique presidential primary for the Peach State, Secretary of State Brian Kemp said Wednesday during a visit to Powder Springs.

“We’re seeing something that hasn’t been the case in Georgia in as long as I can remember, and that’s that the candidates are and they’re going to try to make a play to win our state,” he said before roughly 60 business leaders and public officials during a South Cobb Area Council luncheon at the ’s .

Making Georgia a battleground candidates care about is an issue the legislature took up last year, Kemp said. The outcome: House Bill 454, which allows the secretary of state to set the date for the primary vote.

Before, the legislature scheduled the date. But since Georgia lawmakers adjourn comparatively early, other states would wait to strategically set their official primary dates to gain influence and override the importance of other primaries, Kemp said.

He gave the example of the 24-state Super Tuesday on Feb. 5, 2008, when several candidates from both parties were contentiously campaigning across the country.

“But (no candidates) ever came to Georgia, because on Super Tuesday, the date we picked, everybody else picked that same day,” including powerhouses California and New York, Kemp said.

Though this year’s primary will also be on Super Tuesday—March 6—Kemp said he was able to wait until shortly before the scheduling cutoff, which missing could be penalized with the loss of Georgia delegates at the Republican National Convention.

This year, only 10 states are set for Super Tuesday, and “some of them are non-binding caucuses that nobody’s going to pay attention to,” Kemp said.

“That’s great for our state and our citizens because our votes are actually going to matter in this process when in year’s past, it really hasn’t,” he said, adding this year is groundwork for progressing Georgia in future primaries.

At stake in the nine primaries and four caucuses from Feb. 28 through Super Tuesday are 518 National Convention delegates. Georgia has the most of the states with 76.

Also on Wednesday, Kemp noted the March 6 groundbreaking for the Caterpillar manufacturing facility in Athens and Oconee counties. With , the facility is a “regional-changing event” and shows that manufacturing “is coming back to Georgia,” he said.

He also discussed realignments and cuts to his own office, which include a 28 percent budget cut since 2008 and a staff reduction of 37 percent (see attached video).

Kemp said more work is being done with less people, but “we’re very proud of the fact that we have been able to really make tough business-like choices in the office.”

Kemp has been secretary of state since January 2010. Among other things, the office is charged with conducting elections, the registration of corporations, the regulation of securities and professional license holders, and overseeing the Georgia Archives.

Among the local leaders present was Powder Springs Mayor Pat Vaughn, who said she is “pleased” with the , former Mayor Brad Hulsey.

South Cobb Business Association President Wayne Dodd said there will be a free after-hours event March 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. at to celebrate the recent .

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