Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle trekked to Las Vegas on Tuesday to raise cash for his bid for governor. But his campaign said he won’t be meeting with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, one of the GOP’s biggest benefactors.
The Republican held a fundraiser hosted by data center executives who are thrilled with a newly-passed tax break for the industry. Campaign manager Scott Binkley said it shows data center officials understand that Cagle “is the best candidate to continue creating jobs in the sector.”
Las Vegas-based Switch, which is building a data center campus in Douglas County and would benefit from the tax break, has already contributed at least $6,300 to Cagle’s campaign.
The trip did not include what has become a pilgrimage for Georgia GOP candidates: A visit with Adelson. Binkley, though, said his campaign would “welcome his backing.”
Gov. Nathan Deal visited an Adelson-owned hotel in the middle of his re-election bid in 2014, though he refused to say whether he met with the billionaire. And Adelson almost single-handedly floated Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign.
As the Georgia push to legalize casino gambling heated up in 2015, Adelson and his entourage visited the state Capitol to meet with legislative leaders. But the proposal fizzled out amid staunch objection from Deal and other GOP leaders.
Cagle, who faces Secretary of State Brian Kemp in the July 24 runoff, is set to return to Georgia on Wednesday. He and Kemp both oppose legalized casino gambling, and Binkley said Cagle’s “position on that issue remains unchanged.”
Kemp campaign spokesman Ryan Mahoney scoffed at the notion that Cagle wasn’t meeting with gambling executives while in Vegas.
"For those who believe Cagle is not meeting with casino representatives in Sin City, I got some oceanfront property in Nevada to sell you,” said Mahoney, adding “he will flip flop on positions faster than John Kerry if the price is right."
The winner will face Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia House minority leader who has said her party would only back gambling measures if Republicans agreed to use the new revenues to add a needs-based program for the HOPE scholarship.
Read more recent AJC stories on the Georgia race for governor