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Clay Tippins makes a Super Bowl-sized splash in Georgia gov race


Republican Clay Tippins will make his TV debut in the race for Georgia governor on Super Bowl Sunday with a 60-second ad during the most-watched television program of the year.

The former collegiate swimmer is looking to make a big splash in a crowded GOP race that includes Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and his ad takes direct aim at those better-known rivals. 

With the $250,000 ad buy, Tippins becomes the first candidate for governor to launch television ads this election cycle. The ad will air Sunday in the Albany, Columbus and Macon media markets and debut Monday in the more expensive Atlanta market.

It highlights Tippins’ background as a standout swimmer at Stanford and a Navy SEAL, then shows lookalikes of his opponents flailing in a swimming pool and watching through binoculars as a seal flops on the sand. 

And it touts Tippins’ experience building a “multinational $500 million business” before showing an actor portraying Cagle, who got his start as a tuxedo store owner, wearing a powder-blue tux draped by a tape measure. 

“Georgia is the greatest state in America” Tippins says at the ad’s end. “But why can’t all of our children read? Why is Atlanta still the sex-trafficking capital of the country? Why are we still running government pretty much the same way we did 50 years ago?”

He’s launching the ad even as some conservatives are boycotting the National Football League over its response to some players who kneel during the national anthem. The Georgia Senate voted unanimously to condemn the NFL over its refusal to run an advertisement from a veterans group even though Atlanta will host the Super Bowl next year.

Tippins nodded to the unrest over the NFL, saying in a statement that he recognized the “cultural significance of the Super Bowl throughout America, but particularly in Georgia.”

“Our team saw this Super Bowl ad as a way for me to connect with voters in Georgia,” he added, “and to stand with President Trump on why it is important to stand and respect our national anthem at every sporting event, especially the Super Bowl.”

Tippins is trying to carve out a lane as an outsider in the race to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal. 

He’s the only major GOP contender who refused a pledge to sign the “religious liberty” measure that Deal vetoed. He’s blasted his rivals for their “cozy relationship” with powerful utilities. And he’s criticized Cagle for failing to strike a compromise on a long-stalled adoption overhaul.

Along with Cagle and Kemp, former state Sen. Hunter Hill and state Sen. Michael Williams are in the GOP race. Two Democrats – former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and ex-state Rep. Stacey Evans – are also in the contest. 

The spot was produced by Fred Davis, the Hollywood adsmith with a long history of making waves in Georgia political races. 

He honed David Perdue’s image as a jean-jacketed outsider – and his opponents as hapless crying babies - in the 2014 U.S. Senate contest. And he developed the long biographical commercial that depicted Roy Barnes as a towering, crown-wielding rat in his 2002 race against Sonny Perdue.

In that contest, the image of “King Roy” caught fire even though Sonny Perdue only had enough cash to get his ad on TV during the wee hours. 

In this race, Tippins has signaled he’s got the cash to get his message out: His campaign said he’s amassed about $2 million since entering the race in November.

Keep reading other stories about Georgia’s elections from this week:

More: Why Georgia Democrats are zeroing in on Atlanta’s suburbs 

More: Georgia conservatives fear a Trump betrayal on immigration 

More: How far Georgia will go to snare Amazon remains a mystery 

More: Deadline Day: What to watch as Georgia candidates file campaign cash  

More: A cutting new fight over paper ballots erupts in Georgia gov race  

More: Georgia Senate condemns NFL ahead of Atlanta’s Super Bowl date  

More: Evans faces criticism for ‘tone deaf’ MLK video  


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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.