Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan told the Rotary Club of Atlanta Monday that his new GOP 2.0 movement could have a lasting influence that shifts political discourse. The Cumming Republican is not seeking a second term next year after he drew fire from inside his party when he refused to challenge Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder
During the stressful times of a global pandemic, protests for racial justice and the fallout from the chaotic 2020 elections, Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan says he learned that politics too often have taken precedence over policy.
Duncan told a crowd of Atlanta business leaders Monday that during his final 17 months in office, he’ll prioritize passing a law enforcement tax credit and other legislation as he gears up for the ambitious challenge of reshaping the Republican Party.
Duncan was the featured speaker at the Rotary Club of Atlanta’s first in-person meeting in 18 months, or since well before the state’s second-highest-ranking elected official stepped into the glare of the national spotlight in the aftermath of the Nov. 3 general election.
As a pair of historic U.S. Senate races headed to a runoff, Duncan repeatedly criticized former President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders for wasting time trying to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election by promoting baseless claims claims of election fraud.
Duncan’s refusal to support conspiracy theories peddled by Trump put him at odds with a large share of Georgia Republicans and dimmed his chances of winning a second term. It also spurred Duncan’s plans for what he calls a GOP 2.0 movement where Trump’s dominating presence no longer overshadows the party.
“It’s going to take time to refocus our energy,” Duncan said to an audience of about 150 at downtown Atlanta’s Loudermilk Conference Center. “It’s going to take time to stop our addiction to 10 second sound bites. If we’re going to truly be the nation that our founding fathers expected us to be, we’ve got to rise to the occasion.
“We’ve got to answer the call and stop worrying about partisan corners and start focusing our efforts on solutions as we move forward,” Duncan added.
Atlanta banker Joe Evans, who introduced Duncan at the Rotary meeting, said the lieutenant governor’s integrity and strong backbone were on display when he bucked Trump’s demands.
“I think he showed those colors brilliantly after the November elections when asked by a very influential voice in his party to do something Geoff didn’t think was right,” said Evans, vice-chairman and a director of Cadence Bank.
But while Duncan’s conviction in the weeks following the Nov. 3 election earned praise from progressive civil rights organizations and many Democrats, much of the goodwill fell to the wayside when he gave the final stamp of approval on the controversial sweeping election law passed near the end of the session.
Heading into the upcoming session in January, Duncan said he wants to tackle crime through his proposal to establish a $250 million tax credit available for individuals and businesses to donate to local police departments and sheriff’s offices.
The plan is for departments to use the donated money to hire more officers, increase pay and provide more training.
The leader of the state Senate delivered his remarks at a conference center less than a mile from the building where the state Legislature meets and where Gov. Brian Kemp said last month he wants lawmakers to focus on Atlanta’s crime wave when they meet in a special session later this year.
Duncan acknowledged Monday that the tax incentives proposition faces a much more difficult test of getting support from Democrats than when lawmakers from both parties threw their support behind passing a historic hate crimes law in 2020 and repealing the citizen’s arrest statute this year.
“Crime affects Democrats and Republicans equally,” he said. “Ideas like this really allow us to try to move forward and to try to change the trajectory. Both political sides are guilty of trying to politicize every single issue.”
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