Phil Wilheit Sr. is one of Gov. Nathan Deal's most ardent supporters. And in the 2018 race to replace the term-limited governor, he's turning to another Gainesville Republican.
Wilheit penned an email on Friday calling Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle "the very best person" for the job. He and his wife gave more than $12,000 to Cagle, he wrote, and he urged his friends and colleagues to do the same.
"There will be no 'learning curve' when Casey steps into office in 2019," wrote Wilheit.
Wilheit, who owns a packaging firm in Gainesville, chaired his election campaign and was appointed to the Board of Regents soon after Deal took office. His son, Philip Wilheit Jr., also was chair of the Department of Natural Resources board.
Wilheit, his relatives and his firms donated nearly $100,000 to Deal's 2010 and 2014 campaigns for governor, and he helped corral more big-dollar donations for the governor.
He also has been the source of controversy: An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found that land tied to Wilheit increased in value substantially because of planned taxpayer-funded improvements.
Cagle is one of four Republicans in the 2018 race to succeed Deal. Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Sens. Hunter Hill and Michael Williams are also in the contest, as are two Democratic state legislators: Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans.
Here's a portion of the Wilheit letter:
As Governor Deal's second term comes to an end, we need to be looking forward very carefully to see which candidate can continue Governor Deal's legacy of job creation, criminal justice reform, education, a very business friendly climate and a myriad of other initiatives he has instituted very successfully.
I have taken a lot of time studying this and have come to the firm conclusion that Lt. Governor Casey Cagle is the very best person to continue making Georgia the number one state in the Union to live, play, work and raise a family. Casey has stood by Governor Deal in all of the programs I mentioned above. There will be no "learning curve" when Casey steps into office in 2019.
I have had many discussions with Casey over the last several months and I am very comfortable in my support of his candidacy. He understands that the Governor's office needs to continue to support the business community, education at all levels, healthcare and will welcome our input and advice as he moves Georgia forward.
Mary Hart and I have "maxed" out to Casey. Each individual can give $6.600.00 as well as corporate money. I urge each of you to send Casey a check today at the level you think appropriate.