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Greg Bluestein

A flap over ‘political’ ribbon cuttings in the governor’s race

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Jason Carter claims the economic development office has been politicized.

Jason Carter claims the economic development office has been politicized under Gov. Nathan Deal.

A part of Democrat Jason Carter’s economic pitch is a pledge to “professionalize” the state’s business recruiting office.

The Atlanta state senator said he wants to launch a nationwide search to find a “top notch” head of the Georgia Department of Economic Development rather than make what he views as a political appointment.

It’s a dig at Gov. Nathan Deal’s last two appointments to the post: Chris Cummiskey, a former Mirant executive who was a longtime GOP operative, and Chris Carr, who was U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s chief of staff. Carter has said he has no ill will toward the men, but that another leader was needed to better sell Georgia.

“Right now the economic development office is essentially a political office,” he said Tuesday. “They set up ribbon cuttings.”

Carr said his office is “proud of each and every one of those ribbon cuttings,” which have led to about 100,000 jobs since 2011 and nearly $17.7 billion in investments. To suggest the office has been politicized, he said, “does a great disservice” to its more than 200 employees, some who have worked for years to land big projects.

The governor said in an interview Wednesday that Carter’s statement shows a “lack of understanding” about what the economic development office does.

“Anybody who thinks that all it is is ribbon cutting doesn’t understand and lacks the experience and knowledge as to what it takes,” Deal said after unveiling the new College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta. “It takes a lot of work, and we have one of the most respected departments of economic development that any state has.”

He added: “Ribbon cuttings are simply symbolic representations of many, many thousands of hours of work of many dedicated people.”

And his campaign, as it often does, knocked the Democrat’s Midwest upbringing.

“As we’ve seen over the last six years, state senators from Chicago need additional help in understanding how business works and how the private sector creates jobs.”

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