1. Nathan Deal

Nathan Deal
Photograph by Fernando Decillis

Focus Politics
Age 73
It may be early in his second term as governor, but for Nathan Deal, it’s the home stretch of a 35-year political career, one in which he has never lost an election, from the Gold Dome to Capitol Hill and back. Georgia’s 82nd governor has pushed reforms to the state’s criminal justice and education systems, persuaded big businesses to relocate to metro Atlanta (often with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed by his side), and demanded compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling. Born a Democrat (like many Southern politicians of his generation), Deal is now a stalwart Republican: He’s rejected Medicaid expansion and signed off on one of the nation’s most expansive open carry gun laws. As the state’s top executive, he’s also empowered to meddle in local affairs, as when he removed six members of DeKalb’s mismanaged school board in 2013 and appointed new ones in their place.

Teflon Deal During the 2014 campaign, the state bore the costs for Deal’s ethical peccadilloes, paying out roughly $3 million in settlements to former state ethics commission staffers. The governor emerged unscathed, cruising to an easy victory over Jason Carter.

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This article originally appeared in our October 2015 issue.