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Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter were special guests Saturday at the Hamilton County Democratic Party's 40th annual Kefauver Dinner. The Carters' grandson, Jason, is running for governor in the Nov. 4 election.

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, smiled and whispered to each other as they sat behind a wooden lectern preparing to speak about their grandson to a room of approximately 300 at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Saturday.

"Of course I am just so proud of my grandson," the former first lady said during her short time at the microphone before Hamilton County Democrats' 40th annual Kefauver Dinner.

It was a dual event local Democrats: The Carters' grandson, Jason Carter, is running as a Democrat for governor of Georgia in the Nov. 4 election. And Carter was the speaker at that very first Kefauver Dinner, 40 years ago.

Carter sported his trademark toothy grin as he talked about his grandson's accomplishment graduating second in his law school class from the University of Georgia. Jason Carter now serves in the Georgia senate.

The elder Carter also told the crowd about how politics in Georgia affect those in Tennessee.

"Tennessee has been dragged down with Georgia," he said, to light applause from the crowd.

The former president said that, 10 to 12 years ago Georgia was a different state under Democratic leadership. He urged those in the room to "get rid of the burden we have been carrying under Republican leadership."

He cited the high unemployment rate, a failing educational system, and falling family incomes as major problems in the state, which he said a Democratic candidate -- his grandson -- could fix.

After the Carters spoke they mingled with the crowd, who pushed in to ask questions and have their pictures taken.

Seth Harrell, a member of the Young Democrats and a political science major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was more than a little starstruck.

"Before tonight I had only ever seen videos of President Carter talking, and now I just shook his hand!" he said.

Congressional hopefuls Mary Headrick, running in the 3rd Congressional District, and Lenda Sherrell, the 4th District candidate, were the keynote speakers at the dinner.

Allyson Neal, from Chattanooga, said that she was excited to be able to hear from and support such strong female candidates.

"I have a daughter and it is important to me that we have female candidates like these women," she said.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6592.

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