If you haven’t heard about gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams yet, you will.
About this article
- This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of 400-The Life, a monthly publication of the Forsyth County News. To read the full magazine, click here.
The state senator who represents the majority of Forsyth County in District 27 announced his candidacy to succeed term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal in June, and since then has been travelling across the state, meeting voters, answering phones and getting his name out to Georgians.
He hasn’t been in the political sphere for long, and less than other Republicans running for governor whose current political titles are of a higher profile. He ran his campaign for senator on that resume – a political outsider whose first campaign experience was handing out flyers for the senator he would eventually oust, a businessman who owned a chain of SportsClips Haircuts before claiming insurmountable Affordable Care Act regulations made him sell and run for public office, a Mormon, a legislator who gave his personal cell phone number out to more than 400,000 people in the robo-call email he uses as his main form of campaign communication, a candidate who said he would do things unapologetically different than the Gold Dome establishment.
In September 2015, Williams was the first elected official in the state to endorse then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and appears to be following the same blueprint to the Governor’s Mansion.
One of the first things that we kind of have to over is, 'Well who is this Michael Williams guy?Michael Williams
“Up until a couple of years ago, I was busy raising my family, running my business and just got tired of politics as usual,” Williams said. “That resonates a lot with [voters], and then when they find out I was the first elected official here in Georgia to support Donald Trump, especially in north and south Georgia, that automatically gives a lot of credibility and support.”
Since he began on the road toward Georgia’s top position, Williams has received both praise and rebuke, depending on who you ask, for channeling Trump by attending an armed anti-Sharia law rally in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, stating Democratic border control policies were to blame for the rape of a Gwinnett County woman by illegal immigrants and holding a press conference at the state Capitol to slam fellow candidate Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, where he penned him “Campaign Casey.”
His early support for Trump made him a rising name in conservative circles. Recently, he was endorsed by Republican strategist Robert Stone, who Williams said was instrumental in getting Presidents Trump, George Bush and Ronald Reagan elected.
“He came out and endorsed our campaign and recommended that Trump support us as well,” Williams said, later adding, “It gives a lot of credibility to what we’re doing, to me and my candidacy and to the campaign we’re working, so that’s probably the biggest thing. Also, it gives us a bigger stage to draw support from.”
Stone came to town and spoke at a fundraising event for Williams in Atlanta in August.
It gives a lot of credibility to what we’re doing, to me and my candidacy and to the campaign we’re working.Michael Williams on his recent endorsements
In June, Williams held his first fundraising event with a well-known conservative of a different breed – Duane Chapman, better known as Dog the Bounty Hunter.
The two met at Trump’s inauguration and bonded on legislation Williams proposed to increase pay for law enforcement officers. Chapman has since visited Williams in Forysth and had him as a guest on his new podcast. In June, he endorsed Williams for governor.
Williams said he has been all over the state in recent months meeting and discussing issues facing potential voters. He said there isn’t too much he’s heard that hasn’t come up before, which he said was due to being on the campaign trail for a large part of the last three years with his 2014 and 2016 campaigns, along with getting votes out for Trump last year.
While his campaign style and many views may align with his president, his demeanor does not. Calm, cool-mannered, personable, he openly says Georgia needs to “drain” its own “swamp.” He’s seen “firsthand that the residents of Georgia are not who is represented down at the Capitol underneath the Gold Dome; it’s the lobbyists, it’s the special interest groups and it’s the donors of the people who were elected, that’s whose being represented.”
It worked for Trump, but Williams still has obstacles to overcome. To secure the Republican nomination, he will have to beat out fellow candidates Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and District 6 State Sen. Hunter Hill.
“One of the first things that we kind of have to overcome is, ‘Well, who is this Michael Williams guy?’” he said. “And I believe that’s one of the things that me traveling and getting to meet people helps them to kind of see I’m just a down-to-earth guy just like them.”
Along the way, Williams has had a lot of time to talk about what Georgians want to see from their next governor. Issues like roads, traffic and little accountability from politicians are often brought up. He said he also supports term limits for state-wide offices, eliminating the state’s income tax and replacing it with a “consumption-based fair tax model,” constitutional carry, pay increases for law enforcement and a bigger stand against illegal immigration.
“We’re going to make sure there are no sanctuary cities here in Georgia and that employers here in the state are only hiring those that are lawfully allowed to be employed,” he said.
Williams said the race has meant a lot of time on the road, at meetings and on the phone. As a father of four, including a newborn, he said he doesn’t get to see his kids and wife, Virginia, as much but said the family has stepped up to the race.
“She hasn’t traveled everywhere, but whenever she can she comes out there and brings the kids,” he said. “They’ve all been troopers, and they understand what we’re doing and what we’re about and that they won’t see Dad as much for the next hopefully 18 months or so, but, again, it’s worth it. We don’t have as much family time as we did, but we still try to make time at least once a week for us to kind of sit down and have a meal as a family, hang out, talk about what’s going on in their lives and just spend time.”
Over those next 18 months, Williams will keep traveling the state, meeting with voters and hoping the same support that took Trump to the White House will take him to the Governor’s Mansion.
“I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to kind of travel around Georgia. We have a beautiful state. We have amazing people,” he said. “The reception has been amazing. It’s been wonderful.”