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Freeman jumps into crowded 9th District House race

Chairman of Hall County Democrats aims to fill seat Deal is vacating

POSTED: December 23, 2009 10:01 p.m.

A Democrat has jumped into the candidate pool full of Republicans vying for Georgia’s 9th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mike Freeman, chairman of the Hall County Democrats, registered with the Federal Election Commission to run for the seat that Nathan Deal will leave next year. Deal is seeking the Republican nomination in the race for governor of Georgia.

Freeman, 71, joins the congressional race with seven Republican and one conservative independent candidate, in what he says is an effort to turn up the volume on the Democratic voice that has not been heard in North Georgia for years.

The 9th District has not had a Democratic representative since Deal, who has held the seat since 1993, became a Republican in 1995.

"I believe we’ve not had the opportunity to sort of hear a rational Democratic voice around here in a long time, and I believe when we get that message out that there are going to be a lot more people interested in it than you would first think," Freeman said. "...That’s what I’m working on now: how to get past sort of the knee-jerk reaction, and I think there’s a way to do that. I think most people who are given the opportunity are willing to listen to a reasonable presentation."

Freeman is the third candidate in the race from Hall County. Both state Sen. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, and independent candidate Eugene Moon are also Hall County residents seeking Deal’s seat. Freeman has lived in Hall County for 22 years, and he said he has been considering a run for Congress since Deal announced his bid for governor in May.

"I’m certainly a realist," Freeman said. "I’ve lived in this area long enough. When I first moved here this was a Democratic area and I watched it turn ... so that can happen." And the newest candidate to the race said he is certainly aware of the challenges he faces in a district as conservative as the 9th.

While Jim Taflinger, vice chairman of the Hall County Democrats, called Freeman’s entrance into the race "exciting," he said Freeman will have to work hard to convey his values to voters.

"I think sometimes we’ve went off base labeling Democrat or labeling Republican and not looking at the person and not looking at the values," Taflinger said.

Freeman said he will have a more formal announcement in early January where he will unveil his stance on some of the most important issues in Washington. But the Democrat said he has already begun his fundraising efforts. Since Freeman is the only Democrat in the race, he said it might be easier for him to raise money than the Republican candidates.

"But it just remains to be seen," Freeman said. "I’ve only actively started raising money in December — the worst time of year in the middle of a bad economy — but I’ve been pleased with the response at this point."



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