Hunter Hill says he’s giving up his local state Senate seat for a Governor’s Office campaign to focus on two issues: education and transportation.

Hill, a Republican whose District 6 includes parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs, talked about his campaign during a recent visit to the Reporter Newspapers office.

Hunter Hill discusses his campaign for governor during a recent interview at the Reporter Newspapers office. (Evelyn Andrews)

He said he wants to offer school choice to all Georgians, no matter their income level.

“Right now, only the top 1 percent have choice in education. I want to expand choices and opportunities for all Georgians,” said Hill, who lives in Smyrna.

Expanding transportation options is also a priority for Hill because “it’s a liberty issue,” he said, although he is not keen on heavy rail transit, citing its high cost.

“Maximizing liberty for our citizens means expanding choices,” Hill said.

His ideas for expansion options include driverless cars and increasing highway capacity. He said he would get the right people around the table to determine what metro Atlanta will look like in 30 years and how to plan effectively for the future.

Hill has joined a crowded field of candidates for the 2018 election to replace term-limited Republican incumbent Nathan Deal. Other candidates include Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, state House of Representatives Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and state Rep. Stacey Evans.

Hill has served as the District 6 state senator since 2012, after defeating incumbent Democrat Doug Stoner. Hill narrowly beat Democrat Jaha Howard in 2016, by about 3,000 votes.

Howard has announced another run for the state Senate seat. Others who have announced or filed campaign paperwork include Democrats Jen Jordan and Nigel Raynard Sims, and Republicans Leah Aldridge, Matt Bentley and Leo Smith.

While Hill’s 2016 election win was close, he said he believes a Republican will win the state Senate seat.

“District 6 will continue to be a district represented by a Republican, and I certainly hope that for the citizens of the 6th District,” Hills said.

That senator will also have unique opportunities as a senator for an influential part of Georgia, he said.

“The next senator for the 6th District will be a voice at the table and somebody that’s going to have the opportunity to make an impact on day one of their service because this is an influential part of the state,” Hill said. “I look forward to seeing which Republican is that person.”

Hill supported the Opportunity School District, Gov. Nathan Deal’s measure that would have allowed the state to take over failing public schools and was rejected by voters last year. But he said that as governor, he would opt for supporting voucher programs instead, which would give state funding to students attending private schools.

“What we need to truly reform education is to have competition,” Hill said.

Hill supports voucher programs because he wants lower-income families to be able to have more school choices for their children and not have to rely on public schools, he said.

“It will challenge the status quo in broken schools,” Hill said. “We certainly need to make sure that the least among us have school choice.”

If elected governor, Hill said he would rely on his experiences serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, running a small business and representing an influential district in the Legislature.

As the only Republican state senator whose district includes parts of the city of Atlanta, Hill said he worked well with the city’s Democratic leadership.

He said he has formed a good relationship with Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, and hopes to do so with the next mayor.

“The Mayor’s Office came to me often to help the city when they needed help. Having developed that relationship in the past, as governor, I would continue to work with whoever is elected to move the common interests of our state and city forward,” Hill said.

One example Hill gave of working with the city was helping to raise the square-footage requirement before a building would have to report energy and water use to the city. Hill said this helped protect small businesses from requirements that they couldn’t meet.