Former state representative Geoff Duncan swung by Downtown Cartersville Wednesday as part of his campaign for Georgia's Lieutenant Governor seat.
The 43-year-old Forsyth County resident joins a crowded field of Republican challengers, including former state representative Rick Jeffares and sitting state senator David Shafer, in a battle to fill the vacancy left by gubernatorial contender Casey Cagle.
It's stiff competition, but Duncan said he's not sweating it.
"I used to have to feed my family on the number of people I struck out every night," he said at a meet and greet at Jefferson's Restaurant. "I'm perfectly fine with competition."
In the 1996 draft, the Florida Marlins selected Geoff Duncan, then a pitcher at Georgia Tech, in the 69th round. After about five years in the minor leagues, Duncan decided to hang up his glove and become an entrepreneur in Forsyth County. Roughly a decade later, he decided to try his hand at politics. During the 2012 primaries, he defeated Tom Knox en route to becoming District 26 House Representative — a position he was reelected to in 2014 and 2016.
"It takes a competitive heart and that is something that has served me well in politics," Duncan said. "I just felt like that the process needed to change and I felt like to do that you needed to be in a leadership role. I think I can do it better, bolder and I want to create a culture that rewards policy over politics. I, essentially, either wanted to be in charge or go home back to my family."
He detailed his policy stances on education, the economy and health care.
Education, he said, is the "cornerstone" of Georgia's future. He said he would work to improve K-12 education and promote technical schools and career academies to prepare students for the 21st century labor market.
He said he is also a proponent of school choice, adding that he would like to modernize funding strategies for education. "Those dollars ought to follow the child," Duncan said.
Duncan also bemoaned the lack of parental and guardian involvement in education in some communities. "Some of these failing schools have 60 percent of the kids not coming to school everyday," he said. "There's only 40 percent attendance. We've got to do a better job."
He also encourages changes to standardized testing.
"I've yet to meet a teacher or educator or administrator who likes the Georgia Milestones, or thinks they're an effective tool to help them educate kids," he said.
On the subject of economic matters, Duncan praised the General Assembly for cutting the state income tax. If elected, he said he would make efforts to reduce it another 2 percent during his first two years as lieutenant governor.
He said the local community is an important piece of his "Built in Georgia" (BIG) initiative.
"I think Bartow County is a great part of this plan," he said. "I want rural Georgia to be the production capital of the Southeast. I see a community like Bartow County as a perfect opportunity for a company from somewhere else in the country to call home, to come here and not just create jobs for people for a season, but create jobs for a generation."
Rather than allow legislators to "pick winners and losers" with bills benefitting specific companies, Duncan said the state needs to look for opportunities to help out entire industries and sectors.
He cites Georgia's investment in the film industry as a blueprint for future economic growth in other fields.
"We removed the right barriers and we picked up the right level of incentives for free markets to come here and set up shop," he said.
Duncan authored a bill in 2015 that would offer tax credits to what he calls the "four C's" — churches, charities, corporations and citizens — that make donations to rural health care providers. The proposal, he said, could bring $200 million in tax credits to more than 50 communities across Georgia.
"It allows corporations and citizens to write a check directly to one of 54 rural hospitals and in return, you get a 100 percent tax credit," he said. "What makes this idea such a unique idea is that there are no strings attached. These hospitals receive the money without a government program telling them that they need to see a different type of patient or fill out a new report. It simply allows that community to get involved in the future of their health care and access the health care in their rural community."
Still, he said the best remedy for the state's health care woes is a stronger economy.
"If everybody has a job, they're going to have the means to either receive health benefits as a part of their job," he said, "or be able to afford to buy it."