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‘Michael’s Law’ author visits on Lt. Gov. trail
GOP hopeful Duncan promises ‘policy over politics’
Geoff Duncan, a candidate for lieutenant governor, greets people arriving for lunch at RJ’s.

Geoff Duncan, who as a state representative authored “Michael’s Law” in response to a tragedy in Statesboro, stopped by RJ’s Grill at lunchtime Thursday on the campaign trail for lieutenant governor.

Duncan is one of three candidates for the Republican nomination for the statewide office. If none of the three gets a majority of votes in the primary that concludes Tuesday, the two frontrunners will go to a July 24 primary runoff. Meanwhile, two candidates are vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination in their primary, which also concludes Tuesday.

“We started this process 12 months ago as the absolute underdog. Nobody knew who Geoff Duncan was,” he said. “We have gotten tied in polls – all  of the polling that we’re seeing shows us tied or tight for the lead – because folks recognize I’m not a career politician and they believe me when I talk about  I want to create a culture that rewards policy over politics.”

Duncan represented District 26, encompassing part of Forsyth County near Atlanta, in the Georgia House of Representatives for five years, until he resigned in September to run full-time for lieutenant governor.

As a representative he encountered the “established currency” of Georgia politics, of “did you vote ‘yes’ on the bills you promised everyone back home you wouldn’t vote ‘yes’ on, and did you go to fundraisers”  for other politicians, he said. He decided he “either wanted to be in charge or go home,” and hopes to lead in establishing new expectations, he said.

“The currency I’m going to exchange as lieutenant governor is do you know how to take a good idea and make it great, in such areas like education,” Duncan said. “We need to improve K through 12 education in this state. I think the greatest gift we can give a child is a quality K-12 education that allows them to provide for themselves and their families for an entire lifetime.”


Tax cut proposal

Taxation is one area where he offers a specific proposal.

“I think we need to really, truly see tax reform and look at an opportunity to continue to lower the state’s income tax to a point that allows us to be competitive with our neighbors,” Duncan said. “As lieutenant governor I’m going to lead the charge, in my first two years, to lower the income tax an additional 2 percent, to continue looking for opportunities to lower it from that point.”

In the 2018 session, the Georgia General Assembly lowered the maximum rate for the state income tax from 6 percent to 5.75 percent for 2019. The enacted legislation will also lower the rate to 5.5 percent the following year if revenue goals are met. The 2 percent cut that Duncan proposes would be in addition to this phased half-point decrease, which he called “a great first step.”

“I’m one of those people who agrees with our president that , you know, when we give taxpayers their money back they’re going to be more efficient with it, they’re going to be able to redeploy those dollars into the economy, and I think it’s an opportunity to see us continue to grow the economy,” Duncan said.

He thinks that an additional reduction in income tax would mean “an opportunity to continue to lower it from there and really move ourselves more toward a consumption tax,” he said, and acknowledged that means a higher sales tax.


Michael’s Law

Duncan’s hometown, Cumming, was also the hometown of Michael Joseph Gatto, who died at age 18 in August 2014 after a beating at a Statesboro nightclub called Rude Rudy’s. Gatto was a newly arrived Georgia Southern University freshman, while his assailant, Grant James Spencer, then 20, was also a Georgia Southern student and worked as a bouncer at the club.

Spencer was later sentenced to 20 years in prison on a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter.

Gatto’s parents meanwhile turned to Duncan for legislation, enacted in 2015 and in effect since July 2016. Michael’s Law made 21 the minimum age to work as a bouncer in Georgia, and also the minimum age, with some exceptions, for admission to a bar, defined as a place that gets 75 percent or more of its income from selling alcoholic beverages.

“We just didn’t think there were any good reasons to have under-21s in there, and then also it tightened up the reporting requirements when somebody gets an alcohol-related citation,” Duncan said.


Baseball & business

Duncan attended Georgia Tech for three years and pitched for Tech’s baseball team.  He was drafted by the Florida Marlins into the franchise’s Minor League system and played for several of the teams during a six-year career. He had a college roommate from Statesboro and recalls staying at the Trellis Garden Inn, which has since been demolished, when Tech came to play Georgia Southern.

More recently he was CEO of Wellview Health, a health-related data analytics firm, but stepped down 15 months ago before launching his campaign.

His wife, Brooke, accompanied him on the campaign visit. They have three sons, ages 16, 12 and 7.

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.



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