RIVERDALE, Ga. - A campaign event without political chatter seems about as likely as Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and rapper Ludacris sharing a stage.
But both happened Friday at a charter school outside Atlanta, where the unlikely campaign trail duo was a hit with a cheering crowd of more than 200.
Republican Deal said he couldn't think of anyone better than Christopher "Ludacris" Bridges to inspire students — even though the rapper and actor has been an outspoken supporter of President Barack Obama.
Deal, in a dark suit and red tie, and Ludacris, in jeans and a dress shirt, sat side by side on a stage in the cafeteria, occasionally leaning over to talk with each other or school officials. Deal introduced Ludacris as students cheered and craned their necks to see him.
Instead of talking politics, the rapper focused on the wide-eyed students at Utopian Academy for the Arts — Georgia's first state-commissioned school, which supporters say addresses an underserved community.
"A lot of people will tell you that you guys are at a disadvantage," said Ludacris, who spent much of his childhood in Atlanta. "I feel you're at an advantage. And you know why? Because you have street smarts, but when you add book smarts to that, you are unstoppable."
Before the event with Deal, Ludacris' few ventures into politics have been in support of Democrats — including the release of a profane song during the 2008 presidential race criticizing Obama's opponents.
Deal told reporters the appearance was not an endorsement and said the two didn't talk politics. Deal said he's trying to reach every Georgian with his campaign.
"So many people try to divide us along ideological lines," Deal said. "I think the things we ought to concentrate on are the things that bring us together."
Education is hot topic in the campaign for governor between incumbent Deal and Democratic challenger Jason Carter. Carter has said he is in favour of charter schools that improve students' performance, but he opposed the creation of the statewide charter committee that approved Utopian. He said local boards are better suited to make that call.
"Sen. Carter doesn't believe that a state bureaucracy in Atlanta is the best place to determine what's right for kids across the state," spokesman Bryan Thomas said.