Political Insider

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Nathan Deal’s closing argument for why Georgians should back Johnny Isakson

SAVANNAH – Gov. Nathan Deal had a parochial argument Sunday for why voters should back his pal Johnny Isakson on Nov. 8.

The governor said the incumbent Republican needs a third term in the Senate in order to continue looking out for the Savannah port expansion, a $706 million project that’s long been the subject of push and pull between Washington and the Peach State.

Deal argued that Isakson, through his seniority in the Senate, would be able to better keep the project at the political forefront in Congress and ensure the state gets more federal money in the annual spending bills that collectively fund the government.

The port expansion project is “where his seniority and his leadership and his ability to get along with other folks in the United States Senate is so critical,” Deal said of Isakson. “That’s going to make sure that we here in the state of Georgia are going to continue to see the prosperity that is associated with that great asset of the Port of Savannah.”

Deal's appearance with Isakson in front of roughly 50 supporters at the local GOP headquarters here was the first of five campaign stops the pair is embarking on over the next 24 hours. The duo will be swinging through Columbus, Macon, Albany and Marietta Monday to make their final case for Isakson's reelection.

Deal is also working to promote his Opportunity School District, which is on the ballot Tuesday. He did not raise the issue, however, during his brief talk in Savannah Sunday.

Isakson, meanwhile, said he was optimistic the port expansion project would ultimately receive $85 million to $90 million from Congress this budget year, an amount backers say will help keep construction work on schedule.

“We’re going to see that port finished, and when it is finished the largest ships in the world will come to Savannah," Isakson said.

Isakson has long been at the center of Georgia's quest in Congress to secure $440 million from the federal government over several years to help deepen the Savannah River from 42 to 47 feet. The state is borrowing the rest of the money needed to finance the project, which seeks to make way for larger container ships coming from the newly expanded Panama Canal. Dredging work began in September.

Read more about the Savannah port expansion: 

Bigger ships heading for Georgia

Port business declines in Savannah

Backers optimistic about federal Savannah harbor deepening funds

Savannah port expansion backers say Obama budget short-changes project

Georgia’s port push starts in Panama

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.