- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday that his second term will include a deliberate approach to reviewing how Georgia funds K-12 schools, one day after defeating Democrat Jason Carter as part of Republicans’ second consecutive sweep of statewide offices.

Deal topped Carter, a state senator and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, by about 202,000 votes according to unofficial totals, winning almost 53 percent of the vote.

Democrats had hoped a coalition of voters who skip non-presidential elections, especially minorities and women, would help Carter defeat a sitting governor. But exit polling showed that Carter didn’t do well enough with white voters to chip into Deal’s lead.

An upbeat Deal spoke to reporters in his Capitol office, keeping his comments general. Deal said his staff still is getting input from state agencies about a legislative agenda for 2015, but he acknowledged that his top priority - tackling education spending - has been a political challenge since the complicated funding formula’s creation more than 30 years ago.

At least two attempts to study the issue stopped short of an overhaul, instead making piecemeal changes that didn’t cost the state more. His own plan not to run for any further office could help force this issue this time, Deal said.

“I’m looking to simply do the best we can and move our state forward in areas that are very significant,” he said.

Claire Suggs, an education policy analyst with the left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said the ultimate question will be whether the state can provide more funding and from where. Republican state Sen. Lindsey Tippins, who serves on the education and appropriations committees, agreed that school funding is a tough issue but must be discussed - starting with what Georgia expects students to achieve.

“There’s been reluctance because it is a daunting task,” Tippins said.

Carter declined interview requests on Wednesday through a spokesman. In an email to supporters, Carter said the campaign put education and middle-class families “at the forefront of the discussion.”

“We accomplished something real and our state is better because of it,” the email read.

While Georgia Republicans celebrated their decisive victory over Carter and other Democrats up for statewide office, Deal cautioned that Georgia shouldn’t be considered a “one-party state.”

“If we were a one-party state I wouldn’t have had to work so hard over the last year and a half,” he said. “I think we have a good balance. We cannot do things that we maybe would like to do without cooperation across party lines, and that’s healthy.”

Deal also announced his inauguration committee on Wednesday, including honorary co-chairs Banks and Missy Burgess whose son, Mack Burgess, worked for the state party and died in a car crash in mid-October at age 25.

Deal choked up on Wednesday as he spoke about his respect for Burgess’ parents.

“They have inherited a lot of children,” Deal said, looking at staff members lining the office. “The ones in this room are part of their greater family.”

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