Nathan Deal, Ludacris

Rapper Ludacris, right, and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal are applauded by charter school students upon their arrival at Utopian Academy for the Arts, Friday, Sept. 26, 2014, in Riverdale, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

RIVERDALE, Ga. (AP) — 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 used lyrics describing violence against women and 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.

Nathan Deal, Ludacris

Rapper Ludacris, right, is presented with a plaque while visiting the charter school Utopian Academy for the Arts as Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal look on, Friday, Sept. 26, 2014, in Riverdale, Ga. Deal and Ludacris may seem like an odd pairing for a campaign event, but the duo was a hit with a cheering crowd of students Friday. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

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.”

Not all of Ludacris’ messages are as uplifting. The lyrics of one hit describe violent attacks and threats against women and driving while intoxicated. Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said he could not immediately comment on the propriety of those messages. But he defended the governor’s appearance with the rapper, which was promoted by Deal’s campaign.

“If we help keep open a school that’s doing tremendous work on behalf of children, it was a good day’s work for us,” Robinson said.

Bryan Thomas, the spokesman for Democratic candidate Jason Carter, wrote Thursday on Twitter that there was an “inordinate” amount of Ludacris being played in the Democrat’s campaign office.

“It was interesting that the governor didn’t seem to know very much or care very much about some of those lyrics, or at least that’s what he professes,” Thomas said.

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 Carter. Carter has said he is in favor 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,” Thomas said.


Associated Press writer Ray Henry contributed to this report from Atlanta.