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Cagle's spinal surgery set for Monday

POSTED: April 24, 2009 11:29 p.m.

The spinal surgery that led to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s sudden departure from the governor’s race has been scheduled for Monday at Emory University Hospital in an Atlanta.

Cagle’s office announced Friday that the 43-year-old Hall County native would be hospitalized on Monday. It is not known how long he will remain in the hospital.

Cagle told The Times last week that he would undergo preliminary tests this week prior to the surgery.

Cagle said he had been experiencing pain in his shoulder for years.

However, during the recent legislative session, he said the pain intensified and spread to his chest and resulted in some paralysis in his left arm. Fearing he might be having heart problems, he sought medical treatment at Emory University Medical Center in Decatur. However, an MRI revealed the neck and spinal injury.

Cagle first tried physical and injection
therapy to no avail.

"It has been humbling to hear from thousands of caring Georgians during this process. My family and I greatly appreciate the thoughts and prayers of so many and especially as I undergo surgery on Monday," said Cagle in a statement released by his office.

According to his staff, a medical update will be provided by Emory upon the conclusion of the surgery.

Cagle’s surgeon, who asked not to be identified, issued a statement after the lieutenant governor’s April 15 announcement that expressed optimism at a full recovery.

"While his activities will be limited temporarily, we expect (Cagle) to remain fully capable of performing the duties of his position for almost all of the treatment and recovery period," the statement said.

"If the surgery proceeds without complications and no further issues are revealed, he is expected to be back at full speed well in advance of the next legislative session."

Meanwhile, another potential Republican candidate announced Friday that he would not enter the governor’s race. U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Grantville said he planned to remain in Congress "where I think I can make a difference as a legislative fighter."

Westmoreland, who is serving his third term in Congress, said he decided against running after giving thought to what a run would mean for his family.

"While my decision will be good news for some and disappointing to others, I believe it’s best for me and my family," he said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens and House Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter also decided against running to replace two-term Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Burkhaler will seek re-election to his House seat. Olens said he plans to run for attorney general, a post being abandoned by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Thurbert Baker.

So far, the race includes three Republicans and three Democrats.

Republicans in the race are Secretary of State Karen Handel, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and state Rep. Austin Scott.

State Sen. Eric Johnson, currently running for lieutenant governor, is still eying the race for governor after Cagle’s withdrawal.

On the Democratic side, Baker, House Minority Leader DuBose Porter and former Georgia National Guard Commander David Poythress are running. Former Gov. Roy Barnes is also considering the race.

Political experts said while the lure of the soon-to-be vacant governor’s mansion is tempting, candidates are likely being scared off by the grueling demands of a race already kicking into gear with more than a year to go before the primaries.

"It is the toughest office in state politics to win," Emory University Political Science Professor Merle Black said. "It requires intensive campaigning and raising enormous amounts of money. ... It’s one thing to think and talk about getting into the race. It’s quite another thing to line up the support you need to do it."

Many political watchers predict the contest could end up being the most expensive in the state’s history. The 2006 race for governor between Perdue and Democrat Mark Taylor cost a combined $41.7 million, which is believed to be the record in Georgia for governor’s races.

Olens cited the demands of the gubernatorial campaign trail at a news conference earlier in the week where he said he was opting for the less grueling race for attorney general. The candidates for governor are already running "24-7 now and not doing the jobs they were elected to do," Olens said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.



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