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Georgia’s New ‘Hands Free’ Law- Reporters’ Roundtable Recently, WSB radio Traffic Troopers and listeners were invited to a live broadcast of the Mark Arum Show, to discuss the do’s and don’ts of distracted driving. This panel discussion was prompted by Georgia’s new ‘hands free’ law. For more on this Hands Free law, Doug Turnbull goes in-depth in his weekly Gridlock Guy colum for the AJC.  Read the article here. Call our traffic center with traffic incidents 24/7/365 at 404-897-7358. You can also get through to us using the “Triple Team Traffic Alerts” app, free in your phone’s app store! The app provides audio of real-time, traffic incidents recorded by our WSB radio traffic reporters. Be on the look out for more information on how you can participate in our upcoming Tossing for Tots Disc Golf Tournament. It will take place in early fall, and all proceeds benefit Atlanta-area Toys for Tots. We’ll meet up in Henry County!

The Gridlock Guy- Doug Turnbull

  • The July 1st Hands-Free Georgia Act is right around the bend, and while most of the general public is trying to grasp compliance in their own vehicles, companies that manage fleets have been holding a higher standard for quite a while. First, commercial truck drivers have had very similar hands-free restrictions to what Georgians will soon experience since January 3rd, 2012. Two-time national truck driving safety champion Herschel Evans, who also reports road info to the WSB Traffic Team as a Traffic Trooper, quite literally knows the rules of the road. Evans told the audience at the WSB/AJC hands-free roundtable Tuesday night that the penalties for his industry are 50 times worse. “The thing about the $2,750 penalty (for a truck driver’s first hands-free violation) is that it’s a federal civil penalty. It’s not a criminal penalty, like you’d get from a Georgia State trooper or a DeKalb County Sheriff,” the 2012 Georgia truck driver of the year said. >> Traffic experts urge Georgians to be ready for hands-free driving law Truckers get these penalties not through a normal traffic stop, but from a Department of Transportation investigation after a crash. Since the consequences of bad truck driving can cause far more death and destruction than the average vehicle crash, the penalties are far worse. Evans, who drives for Holland Freight, said that is even more so the case for the employer. “If they find that the trucking company does not have a policy restricting that kind of cell phone use, (the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration) can levy an $11,000 fine per offense.” Georgia’s new distracted driving law has stricter rules for mobile use from the original 2010 law, but the fines per offense ($50 and one point against a license for the first, $100 and two points for the second, $150 and three points for the third) actually decrease. >> Gridlock Guy: How drivers in other states have handled hands-free laws Employers with non-trucking fleets have higher burdens than Georgia’s laws. I drive a company car that is equipped with two-way equipment for my traffic reports. Soon after I began driving it, HR made sure I knew that my checkered and lead-footed driving record could cost me those driving privileges in that car — and maybe even my job — if I made one more mistake. Keep in mind that one more speeding ticket wouldn’t cost me my Georgia driver’s license, but it would revoke my WSB one. I have since stayed much closer to the posted speed limit. My Ford Escape Traffic-mobile has a phone holder attached to the center console, much like a police car. I can easily keep my phone there and off of my body (the main standard of the new law). I have noticed similar setups for Channel 2 Action News photographers in their station-issued live trucks or SUVs. Phone mounts are necessary. Theirs and their reporters’ phones are central to their jobs. The photographer is usually the driver, but they have to not only navigate, but also take calls — which could end up being assignment changes — on a dime. With or without a hands-free requirement, WSB-TV doesn’t need its name dragged through the mud with an embarrassing crash. And they certainly don’t want the lawsuit from a litigious driver going after a big company. >> Police ready to enforce Georgia’s new distracted driving law Many companies have the same philosophy. Estes Trucking uses a cell phone tracker and blocker to keep their drivers between the ditches (both literally and figuratively). Cellcontrol is a service that allows the employers to track drivers’ phone use and behavior behind the wheel. The Cellcontrol mobile app allows employers to control what apps and features work on their employees’ phones. And Cellcontrol’s DriveTag device transmits everything from phone use to how hard the driver brakes all back to their employer. This may seem very much like Big Brother, but our technology has advanced far beyond the slow-processing computers of 1984. Whether the law or the employer regulates driver behavior, the result is what is important. No matter the bars that the government or a company set, we should all aim higher. Distracted driving is an epidemic and we should all strive to do it less. Next week, we pour through AAA’s brand-new distracted driving study, as the new Hands-Free Georgia Act goes into effect.
  • The July 1st initiation of the revamped distracted-driving law — the Hands-Free Georgia Act — is conjuring up questions, criticism, and anxiety. I’ve heard from many people who think that the beefed-up law is simply another source of revenue or that it doesn’t go far enough to stop distracted driving. Others are confused about if they’re allowed to stream audio on their phones (yes, as long as it’s only adjusted while the vehicle is legally parked; adjusting it on the dashboard screen is legal). And still others think the new rules ban phone calls and GPS (nope, they only ban people holding their phones while driving, unless they are making an emergency call). One fact should calm all of us down: this has been done already in 15 states. Fifteen. Over the past two weeks, we have covered what the law allows and bans and discussed some devices and advice for using a phone legally. The new law pretty much bans ever holding a phone while driving and makes other acts such as texting completely hands-free. It also completely bans watching or shooting videos behind the wheel. And the adjustments people must make are very similar to those people have made in other states. I cast a net on social media, asking my friends in states with similar laws what they did to adjust. One, who wished to remain unnamed, said the adjustment was simple: use a headset or Bluetooth earpiece. Having these or even earbuds on just one ear is perfectly legal under Georgia’s new law and makes using the phone without holding it much easier. This same friend was in New York when the laws changed and got caught holding his phone. But the officer gave him a warning, plus the threat of a $300 fine the next time it happened again, and he complied. He said that while using the headset was at first an inconvenience, he got used to it quickly and really had no issues once he got a car with a Bluetooth system. Kelli Kitchens moved from Georgia to Maryland, where the hands-free laws are more strict than Georgia’s now. It wasn’t a big deal to her. “I honestly can’t say it was much of an adjustment moving to Maryland. I admit to using my phone a couple of times while driving with no consequences,” Kitchens said in a Facebook message. “A co-worker of mine up there was holding and talking on the phone and stopped at a red light one time. She mentioned an officer pulled up next to her and motioned for her to put the phone down, but didn’t initiate a traffic stop or issue a citation for it.” These are two instances where officers could have ticketed and fined drivers, but chose not to. Enforcement has been a big question among many I have talked to about the law. The supposed “90-day grace period” is something that only the Georgia State Patrol has mentioned. But even GSP has said that they will nab people under the new law, if the circumstances are bad enough or extremely egregious. Each law enforcement agency can choose whether or not they have a grace period, though many likely will go easy at first. Other respondents to my question about laws in other states seemed very nonchalant about the laws’ existence. Technology is good enough now, even on older phones, to be able to obey the rules fairly easily. Tractor trailer drivers have had to comply with similar laws for several years. And even if the stricter law causes people to make major changes in their behavior, it is rightfully so. Traffic crashes and deaths have seen sharp increases in Georgia in the last few years and our insurance premiums are among the highest in the nation. Behavior needs to change. And texting behind the wheel, moving or not, has been illegal for eight years. But people do it now more than ever. Lawmakers needed to make the law against texting and driving, the most dangerous of the behind-the-wheel phone habits, easier to enforce. They now have banned people holding or resting their phones on themselves. Most states with similar laws have seen at least a 15% decrease in annual traffic deaths. If Georgia gets anywhere near that success rate, the changes are worth the culture shock.
  • The July 1st Hands-Free Georgia Act meets Georgians at the intersection of driving and phones. Any changes with either are not just about enforcement, they are culture-shock. As we covered here last week, the amended “Anti-Texting Law” now bans drivers from holding or resting phones while they use them anywhere on their bodies, period.  The law allows people to dial phone numbers and adjust GPS navigation, as long as the phone is in a holder, on the seat, or on the console (again, not on the person). The law allows zero device-touching for texting, adjusting streaming apps, social media, emails, or anything else.  Drivers can do those things completely hands-free or through a car entertainment system in the dashboard.  And the law completely bans watching or shooting videos from behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. This then bears this question: do drivers need to buy anything to use phones more legally behind the wheel? “We don’t want to get into the situation where we’re telling people they have to buy something,” Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Communications Manager Robert Hydrick told the AJC and WSB.  Hydrick said that the law is lenient enough to prevent people from having to buy tools or better vehicles to use their phones, but that does not mean people should simply just obey the new law. Drivers should strive higher to decrease their chances of getting hurt and hurting others.  “You can make phone calls, but what we want people to understand is to limit your phone calls,” he said. RELATED: What to do if you get a ticket under hands-free law Hydrick said that a good rule of thumb is to just try to limit calls to the bare minimum of length, instead of 30-minute, soul-baring therapy sessions. (Okay, I added that last part). For people that compare phone-use to other acts, like talking to a passenger or eating, Hydrick said the difference is that phone calls and texts take much longer than taking a bite and are more mentally distracting. And he said that some studies show that any kind phone use increases chances of death by four times. That and the increasing crashes and insurance premiums recently in Georgia is why this law is getting more strict. To legally and more safely make calls, drivers can start with just putting an earbud in one ear. If drivers use the earbuds that come with their phones, they normally have mics on them that allow for easy hands-free control of calls and other phone functions. Driving with one earbud or a cheap Bluetooth earpiece (as cheap as $7-10) is legal and much more safe than holding a phone or using speakerphone. As for housing the phone, the law says it cannot be on your body at all when in use. While drivers can put the phone in a cup holder, on a console, or on a seat and then use the speaker, trying to reach over and make calls and input addresses into a GPS is very difficult. Having the phone at or near eye-level makes using it much easier and safer.  Walmart (no, they are not sponsoring this article) has phone holders that clip into AC vents for as cheap as five bucks. I personally use one that is similar to what police use, that extends off of a post attached to my console, but that may be over the top for most people. Many stores also carry phone holders that suction to windshields and, contrary to some rumors online, windshield mounts are not illegal in Georgia. If drivers have newer cars, they should learn how to use the in-car options. Most late models are Bluetooth-ready, as are most mobile devices. The newest cars interact nearly seamlessly with phones for calls, texts, streaming, and GPS. Android Auto is even more user-friendly than Apple CarPlay, but both mobile giants have gone to great lengths to innovate in this field. A little time spent in the driveway with a car owner’s manual and the phone could go a long way to improving the commute. Drivers should also explore what options in their phone settings can limit notifications and even calls. Apple’s “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature under “General” and “Restrictions” in the “Settings” part of the phone allows drivers to choose to allow certain interactions when the phone thinks the vehicle is in motion. Android and Windows phones have a similar “Driving Mode” feature that users can manipulate in the “Settings” section of the app list on the device. Enabling these will help set up some useful guardrails as people adjust to the law. Hydrick said the law is more about changing a mindset. “What we hope to see happen when this law goes into effect is to see people get the phones out of their hands and spend more time driving and less time interacting with their phones.” GOHS has a very helpful site for those with questions on the law: http://www.headsupgeorgia.com/. This is part two in a four-part series on the Hands-Free Georgia Act. Next week, we look at how drivers and law enforcement adapted to similar laws in other states. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • July 1st is a landmark day for transportation safety in Georgia. The highly ballyhooed, awaited and analyzed Hands-Free Georgia Act goes into effect and drivers everywhere are scrambling to figure out just what they can and cannot do. AJC’s David Wickert has a good, concise breakdown on the basics of the law. Very basically, drivers can no longer hold phones and drive. That is the biggest change.  Smilin’ Mark McKay and I recently hosted a two-hour show show on this very subject on News 95.5/AM750 WSB. Listeners packed the phone lines with questions about what they could and couldn’t do and on enforcement. Almost everyone was completely in favor of the law — in fact, plenty thought it does not go far enough. We spoke with state Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, co-author of this seismic new bill that amended the 2010 anti-texting law. Carson said the initial bill allowed for only one swipe to answer a phone call, but the final product is slightly more lenient. On Reddit: AJC’s David Wickert AMA about Georgia Cellphone Law “The biggest misconception is that Georgia drivers will not be able to use their phones,” Carson explained. “What the law says is that you physically cannot hold it or support it.” Drivers soon will be no longer allowed to cradle or hold a phone or other electronic wireless device behind the wheel, unless we are making an emergency call. Georgians cannot use more than one button to answer or use a mobile phone. And they cannot reach for one, if doing so requires undoing a seat belt or standing up. Drivers are allowed to use GPS, voice-to-text features, and can make and receive phone calls hands-free. Single-ear headphones and Bluetooth pieces are acceptable aids for this. If a driver doesn’t have a Bluetooth-capable car or device, using an earbud with a mic on it (like the ones that come with most phones) is a good workaround. The bill also still allows for use of in-car navigation, communication and entertainment systems. RELATED: What about using Spotify, Pandora and music streaming while driving? The no-brainer part of the bill is straightforward: Along with already-banned texting, drivers can no longer answer emails or other queries, watch videos or record from behind the wheel. Believe it or not, these actions are still legal, technically, until July 1st. But don’t do it! As long as someone is legally parked, they are allowed to do these things. But “legally parked” does not mean at a stoplight or in gridlocked traffic. Also, law enforcement, emergency and utility workers are still allowed to use their phones. One big benefit of the law change may be that enforcing the original anti-texting law will be more enforceable. Now officers can easily see if someone is holding their phone or not, no matter what they are actually doing. But the Georgia State Patrol knows this is a learning process for drivers. “While we intend to issue a great number of written warnings and have a lot of conversations on the benefits of going hands-free, each particular interaction is being left up to the discretion of the trooper,” GSP Capt. Mark Perry said. “If the trooper feels that a citation is warranted for a particular situation (crashes with injuries/fatalities etc.), then a citation will be issued. But by and large, the first few weeks and months will be focused on education about the new law.” Whether state law enforcement agencies go easy or not at first, we all have a duty to keep our hands off of our phones and carefully use them in the situations the law allows. Carson said that 13 of the 15 states that already have similar laws have seen at least a 16 percent decrease in traffic deaths. GDOT says that 1,549 people died on Georgia’s roads in 2017. If we all do our jobs and obey the Hands-Free Georgia Act, that number could decrease by almost 250 per year. Penalties for breaking the law aren’t steep. First-time offenders get one point on their license and a $50 fine. The second offense is two points and $100 and the third is three points and $150. Over the next three weeks leading up to the July 1st start date, we will explore tools to make using phones in the car more hands-free, how drivers in other states with similar laws behave, and what employers will have to do to make their fleet drivers legal. Be sure to check back for that. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com
  • Campaign season: where ads drench the airwaves like May weather drenches shirts. Accusations and proclamations fly and snippets of headlines, bills, and quotes quickly frame and cram a candidate’s point into a 30- or 60-second avail. With local races, people (and admittedly this writer) barely know the candidates and the commercials become a main “CliffsNotes” of what the candidate and their opponents believe. Of course, falling hook, line, and sinker for facts in campaign ads is akin to believing the artisanal chef in Taco Bell commercials. This is certainly true with one such claim from Georgia gubernatorial candidate Clay Tippins about Republican primary front-runner Casey Cagle. This is verbatim from a heavy-rotation radio ad: “Casey spent $250,000 of your tax money on private planes to beat the traffic, because Casey’s statewide, billion-dollar-a-year tax increase to fix Atlanta traffic … didn’t fix a thing.” This line has more holes than a tin can in Brian Kemp’s yard. First, does commissioning a private plane for this really make sense? Doing so may be wasteful, but flying to different corners of the state saves far more time than the delays traffic causes. Have you ever heard the saying, “As the crow flies”? And did Cagle really fly over only Atlanta (whose traffic the ad singles out) just to avoid the bad traffic? That’s a very short distance for a plane flight. The ad connects two potential truths — Cagle’s private, taxpayer-funded flights and the bad Atlanta traffic — and makes a likely false axiom. Classic move. The next part of the commercial really sinks low and is dangerous to the notion of an informed populace. The ad claims that the $1 billion transportation funding bill that Cagle championed did nothing to help traffic. This is simply untrue. The 2015 Transportation Funding Act increased gas, electric vehicle, heavy vehicle and hotel taxes to fund mostly a backlog of road maintenance. At the time, GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry said just that to the AJC. “We may be able to do other projects outside of maintenance … but not like rebuilding 285 or something huge like that.” Actually, I-285 is getting some love. The bill required GDOT to develop not just a plan for routine maintenance, but also a 10-year strategic plan to move Georgia forward. In the fall of 2016, McMurry exclusively shared highlights of this plan with WSB and the AJC. Parts of it include the Express Toll Lanes being added to I-85 up to Hamilton Mill Road and the Transform I-285/GA-400 project. There are longer term plans to build four additional toll lanes around some of I-285, redo the I-285/I-20 interchange in Fulton, add toll lanes to GA-400, widen I-16 and I-75 in central and south Georgia, build new lanes along I-85 up to the South Carolina line, and add more capacity to Spaghetti Junction in DeKalb. These are just the big projects. The plan is comprehensive and makes bolder moves than the voter-rejected 2012 TSPLOST plan. Traffic is getting worse in Atlanta, as the population grows. If the government doesn’t move forward with infrastructure and transit plans and if the private sector doesn’t change its behavior and policies, the jams grow worse, faster. Tippins’ correlating the worsening traffic to Cagle’s failed plan is typical political theater, but incredibly misleading. Infrastructure plans don’t eliminate current traffic; they build for the future growth. And we can’t forget the importance of routine maintenance and how cash-strapped GDOT has been in staying ahead on it. Decreasing fuel revenue has hampered GDOT’s budget, so the 2015 plan was a big shot in the arm. Without enough funding, road-paving, grass-cutting, pothole-filling, bridge-inspecting and the like do not happen on schedule. The roads are in bad enough shape — does defunding their maintenance even more help traffic? Most Georgians, especially Atlantans, agree that traffic is bad and that government should have at least some role in maintaining and building the roads. While there are many disagreements about how to do this, spreading false narratives about efficacy just keep Georgia standing still both literally and figuratively. Fixing our biggest traffic problems starts with making a move, not rebuffing all ideas.

News

  • It was Hank Aaron who convinced the Braves to draft Chipper Jones. What led him to believe, at a young age, that Chipper was going to be a Hall of Famer? WSB Radio’s Jay Black and Chris Camp sat down with the baseball legend to discuss his answer to that question, and many more on topics including the Braves’ success during the first half of the season and his take on the crop of young players having success this year: LISTEN TO WSB’S FULL INTERVIEW WITH HANK AARON HERE.
  • Divers will continue searching tomorrow for a woman who fell from a boat on Lake Lanier on Sunday. Channel 2 Action News has learned Hall County Sheriff’s Deputies and Hall County Fire Services were called to Lake Lanier between Port Royale and Old Federal Park regarding a possible drowning just before 4 p.m. RELATED STORIES: Man accused of groping woman at Roswell park turns himself in Man found malnourished, children unsupervised in southwest Atlanta home, police say Boaters' window shot out while cruising on Lake Lanier Authorities told Channel 2 Action News a 31 year-old woman had jumped off of a sailboat to go for a swim and the boat drifted away from her. A man, who was still on the boat, told authorities the victim was trying to swim back to the boat but became tired and efforts to throw a line to her were unsuccessful. He told authorities he went into the water in an attempt to rescue the victim, but was didn't find her after she went under and did not resurface. Dive teams spent an hour looking for her but had to suspend their search due to inclement weather.   
  • A man shot and injured two people at a Nevada church during service Sunday afternoon, officials said.  >> Read more trending news One of the victims was taken to a hospital Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford told KOLO. The identities and conditions are unknown.  The gunman is in custody, Tedford told KOLO.  The shooting happened in front of other parishioners at Fallon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, KOLO reported. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) shared his condolences on Twitter.  This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
  • Police arrested the mother and stepfather of three unsupervised children and a disabled adult who appeared to be malnourished after officers found them in a southwest Atlanta residence. Officers arrived to the house on Saturday at about 5:30 p.m., police spokesman John Chafee said in a statement. >> Read more trending news The people who called police had moved out of the house about three weeks ago, Chafee said. “They returned to the home today to retrieve some of their property when they located the children and 21-year-old in the home,” Chafee said.  This family apparently had moved into the home after the people who called police moved out, police said. The mother and stepfather returned to the scene and were taken into custody and charged with violating state law on protection of disabled adults and elder persons. The children appeared to be in good health, police said. Their ages were not released.  Chafee said it is his understanding that the woman is the mother to the disabled man and the three children. “The children have been placed in the care of a family member, and (the division of family and children services) is following up with them,” Chafee said. The disabled man, who is 21, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital for treatment. No identities were released, and police are still investigating.
  • The 17 people killed when a tourist boat sank in a Missouri lake were remembered Sunday during a service attended by around 200 people in the tourism community of Branson. A church bell at Williams Chapel at College of the Ozarks chimed 17 times for those who died Thursday at Table Rock Lake, the Joplin Globe reported. 'Today we honor the 17 lives that were lost,' said Branson Mayor Karen Best. 'We honor the 14 survivors. And we honor the many heroes who did everything in their power to save lives.' The service was held at the college near the site of the accident, which happened as winds approached hurricane strength. The city and college hosted the remembrance for the victims. Nine of the people who died were part of one Indiana family. Online fundraisers had raised more than $400,000 for their funeral expenses by Sunday afternoon. Two GoFundMe campaigns are underway for the Coleman family, who lost three generations in the duck boat accident. GoFundMe spokeswoman Katherine Cichy says it's verified one campaign that's raising money. Ingrid Coleman Douglas tells The Indianapolis Star a second campaign is also legitimate. Others killed were from Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois.
  • Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle tried to minimize the damage to his race for governor after President Donald Trump’s endorsement of his rival. The White House tried to make sure that didn’t happen. And Secretary of State Brian Kemp shifted his focus beyond Tuesday’s vote. It was a weekend of furious campaigning across the state, as the two Republicans hurtling toward the runoff tried to mobilize their supporters and sway undecided voters. In what’s expected to be a low-turnout race, a few thousand ballots could swing the election. Trump’s surprise tweet endorsing Kemp transformed him from an underdog into a front-runner, and at campaign stops around the state he acted like it. The full-scale attacks on Cagle, long a staple of his campaign, were replaced with pledges that he’ll defeat Democrat Stacey Abrams in November. He had plenty of backup from his newest supporters. He appeared Saturday with Vice President Mike Pence, who said Kemp would bring Trump-like leadership to Georgia’s top office. And Trump sent a second tweet offering his “full endorsement” to a candidate who is “very strong on crime and borders.” RELATED STORIES: Man accused of groping woman at Roswell park turns himself in Man found malnourished, children unsupervised in southwest Atlanta home, police say Boaters' window shot out while cruising on Lake Lanier Cagle countered by relentlessly tying himself to Gov. Nathan Deal, who endorsed him last week. At a Sunday event in Auburn, he tried to downplay the president’s snub, saying that Georgians don’t “need someone else deciding who our governor’s going to be.” “There are two gold-star endorsements in the race,” he told a crowd of about 50 supporters gathered in a sweltering park. “One, of course, is President Trump. But the other is Governor Deal.” Meanwhile, Abrams prepared for the spotlight to refocus on the general election once the GOP nominee is settled. Her campaign sent a note to supporters Sunday warning that the GOP “will be all-in here in Georgia, pouring millions of dollars into their nominee’s campaign” to stop her. ‘Help’ For Kemp, the final days of the race gave him a last chance to remind Republicans of Trump’s support – and cast Cagle as an also-ran. At his rally with Pence in Macon on Saturday, he didn’t mention the lieutenant governor’s name, a stark shift after weeks of assailing Cagle over a secretly made recording that captured him acknowledging he supported “bad public policy” for political reasons. Instead, Kemp framed himself as the only candidate who can energize Republican voters in November to defeat Abrams, who has staked her campaign on mobilizing Democrats who rarely cast ballots by campaigning on left-leaning policies. And Kemp’s supporters echoed his approach. Barbara Bryant, a Lizella retiree, was already supporting Kemp before Trump’s endorsement. But now, she said, voting for the secretary of state takes on more significance. “We want to stand behind Trump, and that’s a way to do it,” she said. “I see this as a way to show our support for the president – he needs all the help he can get.” Ditto for Mike Fuller, a Macon retiree who said he’s unimpressed with talk that the race has become a proxy battle between Trump and Deal. Though the governor endorsed Cagle after an unrelated speech last week, he hasn’t headlined any rallies or events for the lieutenant governor. “So Cagle gets the governor who is going out of office. And Kemp gets the president and vice president,” said Fuller. “Shall I say it? Cagle got trumped. He’s been running scared for a while, and there’s enough Republican support to put (Kemp) over the top.” ‘Real deal’ It’s still unclear why Trump sided with Kemp, but analysts point to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor who appointed Kemp to the state’s top elections post in 2010. His aides and his first-cousin, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, have denied any involvement. Even so, Pence may have stirred the pot – knowingly or unknowingly – as he revved up the crowd in Macon. He called Kemp the “real deal,” borrowing Deal’s campaign slogan, while touting Kemp as the best GOP choice for governor. Cagle’s supporters took notice, though the lieutenant governor has refrained from taking any shots at Trump since he waded into the race. He’s walked a delicate line trying to energize the GOP base without alienating backers of Trump, who is highly popular among the conservatives who will decide the race. Cagle’s closing message on the trail Sunday reflected the bind he was in. He said he wouldn’t predict why the president picked sides, but he added: “I will be a bulldog for the people of Georgia and not a lapdog for Washington.” Cagle’s campaign is counting on fervent supporters who won’t leave the fold. Among them is Phil Dacosta, a Barrow County Republican who said he’s unshaken by poll numbers that show the lieutenant governor trailing Kemp. “People who care about experienced leadership with a steady hand, those people will turn up at the polls and Casey’s going to win by a mile,” said Dacosta, who attended Cagle’s Auburn rally. “I don’t think Trump’s endorsement matters – most people can make their own decision.” Kemp’s campaign is betting that he’s wrong, and quickly launched a final campaign ad focused on Trump’s support. And interviews with more than a dozen voters over the weekend revealed a handful who had switched their loyalties to Kemp in the last few days, or were seriously considering doing so. That’s the fraught situation David Alexander is in. The Lawrenceville resident voted for Kemp in the May primary, largely because he wanted to see a runoff between him and Cagle. At the beginning of last week, he was leaning toward Cagle. But now, with Trump’s decision, he’s up in the air. “The endorsements do sway me,” said Alexander. “There’s going to be lots of prayer in the next few days.”