ATLANTA – Now that Iowa and New Hampshire have voted, the presidential candidates will be heading South, and the man who lured them hopes they’ll leave thinking about poultry, ports and forts.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who conceived of what he calls the SEC Primary, said the reason for grouping on March 1 the primaries of several states whose college teams play in the Southeastern Conference was just to get attention.

“I always have been frustrated … that Georgia was not more of a player in the presidential primaries,” he said, noting that the Peach State has the fourth largest delegate count in the Republican Party.

As the remaining candidates campaign in Georgia and neighboring states, they provide the opportunity Kemp was angling for.

“You can have your voice be heard when it really matters,” he said, Tuesday in speaking to a leadership class sponsored by the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce that was visiting the Capitol.

“They need to learn about our state. We need to pin them down like they do in Iowa,” he said.

Candidates generally pledge their support for ethanol as a way to win the Iowa farm vote, he said. Except this year’s Republican winner, Sen. Ted Cruz, told crowds there he opposes federal ethanol requirements for gasoline.

Still, Kemp believes Georgians can win commitments to some of their own economic interests, such as the deepening of the Savannah River channel, military bases, cybersecurity and poultry.

“When they’re thinking about agriculture policy, we don’t need them only thinking about Iowa and corn,” he said. “We need them thinking about our chickens that eat all that corn.”

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