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Gov. Nathan Deal endorses Casey Cagle in Republican primary runoff for governor
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle at the grand opening of his Northeast Georgia headquarters in Gainesville, on Saturday. The grand opening is taking place two days after Clay Tippins, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate, leaked audio of a discussion with Cagle. - photo by David Barnes - photo by FCN regional staff

Gov. Nathan Deal has endorsed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to follow him as the next governor of Georgia.

Cagle will face Secretary of State Brian Kemp in a runoff election July 24 to determine the Republican candidate for governor.

Deal praised Cagle’s work as lieutenant governor and said he has been a partner in the success of his eight-year administration.

"Because he has had a part in making these reforms happen, I think he is the best one to continue this tradition,” Deal said. “My concern is let’s not undo or transform in a negative fashion the good reforms that have been put in place.”

Cagle said Deal has successfully led the state during a time of growth.

“Eight years ago, no one would have thought that we would grow by nearly 700,000 jobs and 40,000 businesses, become the No. 1 state in the nation for business, and cut taxes by billions. But, that's what happens with rock-solid conservative leadership,” Cagle said. “I'm ready to be your next governor and I'm honored to have Gov. Nathan Deal's support in that endeavor.”

Kemp responded to the endorsement, saying he respects Deal and the progress made during his administration while calling attention to two audio recordings that have been a point of contention for the Cagle campaign.

"Career politician Casey Cagle is collapsing in the polls and this endorsement is a last minute attempt to distract voters from the secret recording where Cagle insults conservatives and confesses to trading votes for campaign cash,” Kemp said in a statement.

Kemp was referring to a pair of audio recordings from a conversation between Cagle and Clay Tippins, one of Cagle and Kemp’s competitors in the May 22 primary. In the first recording, released in June, Cagle said he pushed a bill he thought was “bad” policy because he thought it would hurt the election chances of former Republican gubernatorial candidate Hunter Hill. In the second recording, released earlier this month, Cagle tells Tippins that in a primary, many people pay less attention to important issues, and the election had become “who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck, and who could be the craziest.”

The winner of the runoff will go against Democrat Stacey Abrams in November. Abrams secured her party’s position in the May primary.