A Collegial Look at the Georgia Governor’s Race

A Collegial Look at the Georgia Governor’s Race

College football has started and many readers are probably getting into the spirit of things. This is no exception for Georgia’s governor candidates. For this first piece after Labor Day and the start of the pigskin season (or for those of who have no interest whatsoever in football – college is back in session regardless), a little look at the fancy book learning of this year’s candidates and some from yesteryear.

On Friday, Brian Kemp tweeted “I’m proud to the only University of Georgia grad running for #gagov in the #GAGOP primary and look forward to cheering on the Dawgs this weekend!” Considering Georgia’s history, it seems unlikely but yes, Kemp is the only Republican UGA graduate. He is a lifelong resident of Athens, attending high school at Athens Academy and the University of Georgia.

Hunter Hill was born and raised in Georgia but attended college outside the state, at West Point. He graduated with a degree in General Management and a minor in Civil Engineering, both of which would serve him well during his time in the Army and tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Despite his slender frame, a young Casey Cagle had dreams of playing college football and attended Georgia Southern to do so. An injury ended those dreams and he entered the business world at the ripe age of 20, opening a tuxedo shop in his hometown of Gainesville.

Michael Williams’ childhood has a heart-breaking detail about his Vietnam veteran father taking his own life when Michael was only 14 years old. Michael became the man of the house far too early, helping his single mom take care of his three younger siblings. He went to study accounting at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. Montevallo is Alabama’s only public liberal arts college.

On the Democrat side of the ledger, two Staceys, both attorneys, both attended school in Georgia. Stacey Abrams graduated as Avondale High School’s first black valedictorian. She went to Spelman College earning her Bachelor’s and then got a Masters of Public Affairs at the University of Texas as a Harry S. Truman Scholar. She then went on to get her J.D. from Yale Law School.

Stacey Evans turns out to be the only other UGA graduate in the race. Evans parents were carpet mill workers in northwest Georgia and could not afford to send her to school. Thankfully, Stacey qualified for the HOPE scholarship and found herself in Athens. She studied Economics and Political Science and then went to attend law school there as well. Evans would later give back to the university by establishing the Stacey Godfrey Evans Scholarship at the University of Georgia School of Law, it is specifically for first-generation college students that come from outside the metropolitan Atlanta area.

None of this necessarily has any impact on how a certain candidate might perform once elected. College attendance twenty or thirty years ago may not indicate the real impact a person can have. Karen Handel, the newly elected congresswoman from Georgia’s Sixth District, does not have a college degree. Neither does Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker.

As far as the governor’s mansion goes, the last non-college graduate to hold office may not one with which you’d want to be associated – it was Lester Maddox, he of the axe handle-brandishing. The University of Georgia has quite the stranglehold on the governor’s office the last several decades. Nathan Deal is a Mercer graduate but prior to him was the quite the run of Bulldogs – Perdue, Barnes, Miller, Harris and Busbee all went to UGA. Jimmy Carter’s Navy attendance ultimately landed him in a submarine and the White House. Before Carter, Carl Sanders and Ernest Vandiver also went to UGA.

If you’re into rooting for candidates based on their school attendance, your UGA options are limited this year but you can hope for that Evans versus Kemp vote in November.