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Cagle's rivals brew up storm over his stance on booze legislation

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s Republican rivals didn’t take too kindly to his celebration of new alcohol rules that took effect last week.

We noted earlier that Friday was a watershed moment in the evolution of GOP politics and alcohol. It was also a chance for former state Sen. Hunter Hill and state Sen. Michael Williams, two supporters of the legislation, to blast Cagle for what they called his obstruction of measures to help craft breweries.

The head of Georgia's craft brewing industry association disputed their accusations, calling Cagle pivotal to the bill's passage.

Hill spokesman Cody Hall took to Twitter to cast Cagle as “the biggest obstacle for craft breweries for years” and said breweries celebrated the new law despite his “legislative arm-twisting in years past.”

Williams took it a step further, posting a video claiming that he was “completely baffled” to hear that Cagle supported the legislation.

“Campaign Casey, he has flip-flopped more times than John Kerry,” he said, invoking the former Democratic presidential candidate. He called on Cagle to “turn our backs on the lobbyists” and support legislation that would overhaul the three-tier alcohol distribution system in Georgia.

Cagle has not been quoted extensively about his past stances on the legislation, which for the first time allows patrons to buy directly from local craft breweries and distilleries. But his campaign said he was squarely behind the legislation this year.

His campaign manager, Scott Binkley, offered a pithy statement about how Cagle brought competing interests to the table to hash out an agreement “then aged it appropriately and delivered a rich, bold law that’s going down smooth.”

“After he separated the wheat from the chafe, the yeast really rose to the top to create a great final product that’s creating Georgia small business jobs and allowing consumers to buy local,” said Binkley.

Nancy Palmer, the executive director of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, had a similar take – minus the frothy imagery. She said Cagle was “absolutely instrumental” in getting the alcohol expansion approved and was “very engaged” through the process.

“He listened and then guided everyone toward common ground. He then advised us on how best to approach the session and assisted in getting this legislation passed,” she said. “His help was crucial, there’s no doubt about it.”

Read more: New relationship brewing between Georgia Republicans, alcohol

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.