Brian Kemp at ATlanta Rotary
Gov. Brian Kemp takes questions from Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

During his first talk to the Rotary Club of Atlanta since he was elected governor in 2018, Gov. Brian Kemp evaded the question of whether he would be running for the U.S. Senate in 2026.

In a question-and-answer session with Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic, Kemp laughed when he was asked if he would run for U.S. Senate in 2026 against U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia.)

“At least you didn’t ask if I was going to run for president,” joked Kemp, who has been floated as a possible candidate for president or vice president in 2024 by national political observers.

First Lady Marty Kemp and Gov. Brian Kemp share a quiet moment before his talk to Atlanta Rotary. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

“My answer on the U.S. Senate question in 2026 is we need to stay focused, in my opinion, on 2024 and not worry about 2026,” Kemp said at Monday’s meeting. “So that’s what the First Lady and I are doing. We’re staying focused on 2024. And we don’t have the U.S. Senate race in 2024.”

Kemp was accompanied by his wife, Marty Kemp, who actually beat her husband in speaking to the Atlanta Rotary. She was part of a panel on June 26 on human trafficking, an issue she has been working on since she became First Lady.

In introducing the governor, Rotarian Steve Hennessy welcomed Marty Kemp back to the Club. 

“You are now part of the rich history of the 110-year-old club,” said Hennessy, referring to the Club’s founding on Aug. 1, 1913. “You are the first First Lady to speak at Atlanta Rotary before her husband.”

Hennessy then made a point to mention Rotary likes to have both the governor and the mayor of Atlanta speak to the Club on an annual basis, obviously hoping Kemp would return next year.

Kemp was warmly received by an overflowing crowd on July 31 at the Rotary Club meeting at the Loudermilk Center. Kemp gave an overview of his administration’s successes, singling out Georgia Tech President Angel Cabrera and Georgia State University President Brian Blake for helping educate the state’s future workforce. 

Kemp also highlighted Georgia Power and the Southern Co. for the first day of operation of the nuclear Plant Vogtle 3 earlier on Monday.

Gov. Kemp makes a point at Atlanta Rotary. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

“This morning we made history…by officially turning on the first nuclear power reactor in our country in over 30 years,” said Kemp, specifically thanking Rotarian Kim Greene, CEO of Georgia Power. Then he said his plane was not able to land at the plant, so he was unable to attend the event even though he and his wife had gotten up at 4 a.m. to fly to the Plant near Augusta. It is projected Vogtle 4 will be up and running by the first quarter of 2024.

“Our state will be better off for this, and our environment will be too,” Kemp said.

The governor went on to tout his economic development successes, saying the rural parts of the state have received as much as 85 percent of the investment and jobs the Georgia Department of Economic Development have attracted in the last couple of years.

“Something we should also celebrate is Georgia has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation for African Americans and Hispanic Americans — well below the national average, according to the Economic Policy Institute,” Kemp said. “Georgia is and it should remain a place where all people have access to opportunity.”

A warm greeting
Gov. Kemp greets Bernice King after his Atlanta Rotary talk. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Bostic’s first question to Kemp was to share a fact that most people didn’t know.

Kemp said that while he is the 83rd governor of the state, he is married to the 87th First Lady of Georgia. “Think about that,” Kemp said as Rotarians broke out laughing.

Other questions were more serious, such as rural health care. Kemp then spoke with pride about several of his initiatives, but he said Rotarians probably would not have read about them in the Atlanta newspapers. 

When asked about the 2024 World Cup, Kemp said it “was going to be bigger than anything we’ve ever seen.” At least since the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

Asked about Georgia’s agricultural industry, Kemp said: “Agriculture in Georgia is the number one industry in the state by far.” And he spoke about programs to help farmers get produce out of the field even during down market conditions.

The Kemps at Atlanta ROTARY
First Lady Marty Kemp and Gov. Brian Kemp take time for photos with Atlanta Rotarians after his talk. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

The aerospace industry? Kemp said even he did not realize how significant it was for Georgia, saying the state has 130 aerospace companies — from the big companies like Delta, GulfStream and Lockheed to smaller innovative companies like the one working to make sustainable aviation fuel, which he said is very important for the industry.

Bostic asked about the use of tax incentives to attract companies to Georgia. 

Kemp said Georgia has limitations because of the gratuities clause in the state constitution. 

“We’re competing against states that will just give cash handouts,” Kemp said, adding that overall, Georgia does well competing against surrounding states even though it has a state income tax, which doesn’t exist in Tennessee and Florida. Kemp said when it comes to the overall tax burden, Georgia’s is actually lower than Florida’s. 

“I always tell people if you want to retire, or if you want to go to the beach, you go to Florida,” Kemp said. “If you want to work and raise your family in the best state in the country, you come to Georgia.”

Maria Saporta, executive editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state. From 2008 to 2020, she wrote weekly columns...

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