Casey Cagle condo purchase from lobbyist comes under scrutiny

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Casey Cagle condo sale
Georgia Lt Governor Casey Cagle, photo: Nathan Hanks (public domain)

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Casey Cagle purchased a condo from a lobbyist at an apparent 24% discount in 2008. The Cagle condo accusation is the second scandal to hit the Republican front-runner in as many weeks.

Cagle condo sale negotiated without an agent

According to a story first reported in the New York Times, Cagle purchased a one-bedroom apartment in the Landmark high-rise in 2008 from lobbyist Terry E. Hobbs for $97,000. The apartment was appraised at the time for £127,800, 24% more than what Cagle paid for it. In his financial disclosure forms Cagle valued the condo at a still higher $175,000 –  a 45% increase over what he paid for it.

The Atlanta real estate market collapsed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, however, and Fulton County appraisers valued it for just $44,000 in 2011. The market has since rebounded, and Cagle successfully sold the property for $125,000 last year.

According to Cagle, the sale was made without an agent. He was looking for a place to house his three sons near Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta, and liked the location of the Landmark. He put a notice in the Capitol lobby, and was contacted by Hobbs.

Speaking to the Times, Cagle said, “He said he had a unit, take a look at it. I did and I said, ‘What’s your price?’ He said, ‘97,000,’ and I said, ‘I’ll take it.'”

The 55-year old Landmark would have been well known to Cagle, as its proximity to the Georgia State Capitol has made it a favorite of legislators and lobbyists for decades. It is well known for its “hospitality rooms,” stocked for the use of lawmakers by lobbyists when the General Assembly is in session.

Both Cagle and Hobbs insist the transaction was entirely above board and legal.

The real fallout from the Cagle condo scandal

As far as political scandals go, the Cagle condo is a relatively minor one. There is no implication, at least not yet, that Terry E. Hobbs used the sale to extract favors for his lobbyist client, the natural gas marketer Scana.

But the timing for Cagle is atrocious. Following immediately in the wake of a much more serious scandal, in which the current Lieutenant Governor confessed to backing bad policy for short-term political gain in a secretly recorded conversation, Cagle is in danger of gaining a reputation among voters for tawdry backroom dealing.

Cagle came in first place in the May 22nd Republican gubernatorial primary, but with only 39% of the vote he is required to contest a runoff with second-place finisher Brian Kemp.

The runoff will take place on July 24th, at the height of the Georgia summer and midway through school summer vacations. Turnout is expected to be dismally low. A series of scandals could be incredibly helpful for energizing Kemp’s supporters to vote against Cagle, and that alone could be enough to turn the election result.

Cagle still enjoys a huge money advantage, with $3 million more cash-in-hand than Kemp at the latest reporting period at the end of March. If the run of scandals ends here, Cagle may be able to ride this still relatively small storm out without much trouble.

But if his poll numbers start sliding significantly, the run up to July 24th could turn into an old-fashioned political brawl. Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, with no runoff of her own to contend, would enjoy nothing more than a bruising Republican fight that weakened both of her potential opponents.

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