An ‘outsider’ no more, Ge­off Dun­can set to be Ge­or­gia’s lieu­tenant gover­nor

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FRONT PAGE - By Maya T. Prabhu [email protected]

Ge­off Dun­can stood in front of the Ge­or­gia Se­nate, look­ing out in the cham­ber.

“The chair rec­og­nizes the ma­jor­ity leader to speak on the bill,” he said, call­ing on state Sen. Mike Du­gan to dis­cuss the leg­is­la­tion be­ing de­bated on the floor.

But in­stead of Du­gan, a woman rose to urge pas­sage of the mea­sure.

She was one of about five staff- ers stand­ing in for var­i­ous sen­a­tors last week to help Dun­can pre­pare for his new role as Ge­or­gia’s lieu­tenant gover­nor. It was Dun­can’s fifth and fi­nal train­ing ses­sion be­fore he spends at least the next four years pre­sid­ing over the cham­ber.

“I wanted to go to spring train­ing,” the for­mer mi­nor league base­ball player said. “I re­ally wanted to ac­tu­ally be in the cham­ber ... to be com­fort­able.”

Not only did he get hands-on train­ing, he said he went back and watched sev­eral years’ worth of Se­nate floor ses­sions — or “game film.”

Dun­can, who will be sworn in Mon­day, pulled off an up­set dur­ing last year’s Repub­li­can pri­mary runoff to best the pre­sumed front-run­ner, for­mer state Sen. David Shafer. The Cum­ming res­i­dent said he’s also spent the time since he pre­vailed in the gen­eral elec­tion meet­ing with as many sen­a­tors as he can to learn about their leg­isla­tive goals for the ses­sion.

“I’m not just anx­ious to meet a se­na­tor, I’m anx­ious to build a re­la­tion­ship with a se­na­tor,” Dun­can said.

A self-de­scribed outsider, Dun­can served five years in the House be­fore re­sign­ing in 2017 to focus on his cam­paign. But he will have to quickly shed that out­look, for­mer Sen. Ge­orge Hooks said.

“He’s no longer an outsider, he’s go­ing to be an in­sider,” said Hooks, who served 22 years in the Se­nate un­der three lieu­tenant gov­er­nors. “I think that’s the way he needs to play it. Be at­ten­tive to what they need be­cause the Se­nate is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than the House.”

Dun­can will pre­side over a cham­ber where all the Repub­li­can sen­a­tors lined up be­hind other can­di­dates in the pri­mary elec­tion, most sup­port­ing Sha- fer. Repub­li­can sen­a­tors quickly en­dorsed Dun­can af­ter the pri­mary.

For­mer stateRep. Allen Peake, who didn’t run for re-elec­tion this year, was one of few in the Gen­eral Assem­bly to sup­port Dun­can from the be­gin­ning.

“I know Ge­off,” Peake said. “And I know he’s got a com­mit­ment to do­ing what’s fair and right and rea­son­able when it comes to gov­ern­ing. But pol­i­tics is rough and tum­ble, and there’s go­ing to be times I’m sure he’s go­ing to prove his met­tle.”

Dun­can said he’s up for the chal­lenge.

The owner of a small mar­ket­ing busi­ness who con­sulted with health and con­struc­tion com­pa­nies, Dun­can said he plans to bring that lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence to gov­ern­ing. Peake said he thinks Dun­can’s ex­pe­ri­ence in the House and run­ning small busi­nesses will serve him well in the Se­nate.

“Lead­er­ship is lead­er­ship whether it’s in the busi­ness world or po­lit­i­cal world or academia,” Peake said. “The same prin­ci­ples ap­ply.”

As far as his pol­icy pri­or­i­ties, he said he wants to focus on im­prov­ing ac­cess to health care and pro­vid­ing a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion to Ge­or­gia’s stu­dents.

On health care, Dun­can said he wants to tackle re­quir­ing price trans­parency for those re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal care and im­prove ac­cess to telemedicine.

“And I want to make moves in this state that em­power teach­ers to do what they want to do and love to do, and that’s teach,” he said.

Dun­can said he doesn’t plan to shy away from some of the state’s more con­tro­ver­sial is­sues such as pass­ing “re­li­gious lib­erty” leg­is­la­tion or bills lim­it­ing ac­cess to abor­tion, both is­sues he cam­paigned on.

“I want a cham­ber with a great at­mos­phere for strong, rig­or­ous, fact-based debate,” he said. “I want to al­low sen­a­tors to ex­press their opin­ions and bring leg­is­la­tion for­ward.”

He was al­ready be­gin­ning to make him­self at home in his new job last week, with pho­tos of his fam­ily — his wife, Brooke, and their sons Parker, 16, Bay­lor, 13, and Ry­der, 8 — hang­ing on walls through­out the lieu­tenant gover­nor’s of­fice.

Dun­can’s fam­ily played a cen­tral role through­out the cam­paign — ap­pear­ing in cam­paign commercials — and thank­ing them is one thing he said he’s ex­cited about as he goes through the cer­e­mony of his first day pre­sid­ing over the Se­nate on Tues­day.

“The part that ac­tu­ally brought a tear to my eye is that I’m given an op­por­tu­nity to rec­og­nize my wife and three boys on the Se­nate floor,” he said. “That is a unique mo­ment that I am re­ally look­ing for­ward to.”

Then, he said, it’s down to busi­ness.

“My pas­sion is to get up ev­ery day and make the state bet­ter in the af­ter­noon than it was in the morn­ing,” Dun­can said.

AN­DRES / BAN­[email protected] BOB

Ge­off Dun­can, a small busi­ness owner and for­mer Ge­or­gia Tech base­ball player, steps into the state’s No. 2 po­si­tion to­day.

BOB AN­DRES / BAN­[email protected]

Ge­off Dun­ca­nis look­ing for­ward to rec­og­niz­ing his “wife and three boys on the Se­nate floor” dur­ing his first day pre­sid­ing over the Se­nate on Tues­day.

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