GAINESVILLE, Ga. -- Pay attention to the Republican race for governor, and you’ll learn immigration is one of Georgia’s top issues. Three of the candidates are doing their best to embrace a hard line position mirroring President Trump.
Michael Williams’ campaign for governor isn’t budgeted for TV advertising in Atlanta – but he can afford a thirty year old bus and a fresh custom paint job.
"It’s probably one of the top two or three issues that we get questions about, is what are we going to do about illegal immigration," Williams said.
Williams said he doesn’t actually expect to load any deportees into what he calls his deportation bus, a vehicle complete with prison bus decals on the windows and a message on the back about Mexican immigrants who’ve entered the US illegally.
In an ad posted to his Facebook page, Williams said he’s going on a tour of so-called sanctuary cities to “shine a light on the dangers of sanctuary cities and the overwhelming problem of illegal immigration.”
The tour stars on Wednesday May 16 with the first stops in Clarkston, Decatur and Athens.
Williams said he’s going to “fill this bus with illegals and send them back to where they came from,” saying, “We’re gonna put em on this bus and send them home.”
The bus has the words “Danger murders, rapists, kidnappers, child molesters and other criminals on board” painted on the back of the bus above the words “follow me to Mexico.”
The Williams bus extends a strategy set by Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016, and rivals an equally provocative message from Brian Kemp, another GOP candidate for Governor.
Antonio Molina is the chairman of the Latino Caucus of the Georgia Democratic Party and said ads like this and the controversial gun ad from Kemp are “very disheartening. It’s disgusting.”
“It’s sad we’ve gotten to a point where candidates from the Republican Party are using the Latino community and immigrants as a ploy to get more votes," Molina said.
He called the ads scare tactics and fearmongering, saying the candidates are “painting the immigrant community as one that is filled with immigrants that are illegal and criminal, which is not the case.”
Molina said these ads are a reflection of the Republican Party.
“What has the Republican Party become if this is the type of tactics that they have to use to appeal to their base…Donald Trump used it in 2016 and it worked out so good for him. So, they feel they have to do that to appease their base.”
The primary election is on May 22, early voting has already begun. For comprehensive coverage of the races, go to our politics section.