Albany (US): It's been more than four decades since former US President Jimmy Carter campaigned across Georgia and asked voters to make him governor.
His winning race set the stage for his election as president in 1976. Carter has just turned 90, but he was out campaigning yesterday for his grandson Jason, a Democratic state senator and lawyer from Atlanta who's challenging the Republican governor, Nathan Deal, on November 4, in a close race.
The former president and his grandson spoke during a church service open to the public in south Georgia, a key area for Jason Carter as he looks to woo former Democrats back to a party that many left more than a decade ago. The visit to Mt Zion Baptist Church in Albany was part of a campaign push ahead of early voting, which begins today.
Jimmy Carter spoke of the struggle for blacks to obtain the right to vote and praised his grandson for fighting against the state's voter identification law. The former president said Republicans are for limiting, not expanding, voter access.
"He's led the charge," the former president said of his grandson's work in the courtroom to challenge the state law. "Everyone here and everyone you can contact should join with Jason when the time comes this year to make Martin Luther King's dream come true."
Republicans who have pushed the legislation obliging voters to show a photo ID at the polls say the requirement will reduce fraud, but Democrats insist that such fraud is extremely rare and represent a Republican effort to reduce Democratic turnout on Election Day. Young people and minorities who tend to support Democratic candidates often lack the required photo IDs.
Polls suggest a tight race between Carter and Deal, and Democrats see both the governor's race and a fierce battle for the state's open US Senate seat as critical to laying the foundation for Georgia to become a presidential swing state in 2016.
Up until this point, the elder Carter had largely stayed behind the scenes, headlining private fundraisers and offering counsel to his grandson's campaign. But in the final weeks, he is taking on a more prominent role. Among those in the crowd was Hildry Branch, a retired educator from Albany, who brought her family to hear the former president and who appreciated his support for his grandson.
A lifelong Democrat, Branch said she planned to vote for the younger Carter. "I like what he's said about education," she said. "All children need to be educated. That's one thing no one can take from you."