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Perdue gets more time to consider special election for Deal's seat

POSTED: March 6, 2010 12:41 a.m.

It is still unclear how U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal’s decision to delay his departure from Congress will affect the election to fill his seat.

Deal, who had originally announced he would resign March 8 to focus on his gubernatorial bid, announced Thursday he will stay a bit longer to help his fellow Republicans fight a plan to overhaul health care.

A spokesman for Deal earlier said the Gainesville Republican decided to stay in Washington after President Barack Obama called for an "up or down" vote of the bill in the next few weeks.

But the implications that has on a special election to fill the void left in the U.S. House likely won’t be known until Deal’s resignation is official.

Once it is, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue will issue a writ of election within 10 days, setting a date for the special election that can be no sooner than 30 days from the date the writ is issued.

A letter Deal sent to Perdue says that the 18-year congressman plans to resign on "a date no later than March 31, which seems to indicate that it could be some date before then," Perdue’s spokesman Bert Brantley said.

"At the point that that seat is vacant, the governor will make a determination within that 10-day window and it will be set," Brantley said.

Following that schedule — set by state law — means that the soonest the special election could be held is May, but as Brantley points out, there is no end date.

Considering revenue issues statewide, there is the possibility that the special election could be held at the same time as the July primary.

Special elections are expensive. For Hall County alone, the expense would be approximately $45,000, according to Charlotte Sosebee, the county’s interim elections director.

Opening the polls and training workers for a special election isn’t an expense afforded in Sosebee’s approved budget, and she said she would prefer killing two elections with one financial stone. If the special election to fill Deal’s seat is held sometime outside of the July 20 primary, Sosebee will have to ask the Hall County Commission for more money.

"(Holding the elections at the same time), that would be my choice, and that’s based on all of the budget cuts and would help with spending," she said.

Ultimately, the decision is up to Perdue, and
Brantley said the date of the primary is not being considered over any other day for the special election.

"It could be any day, and no day is more or less likely than the other," Brantley said.

There is also the possibility that holding the special election with the July primary would give Deal an advantage by ensuring his 9th District supporters were at the polls.

And while Brantley refused to speculate, he said the governor would be considering the potential consequences of each date before making his decision.

"You can’t make a decision without considering the impacts of that decision and what impacts a different decision would be," Brantley said. "Everything that’s involved with setting an election, certainly the governor will consider that. We won’t ignore any impact or any result that would happen from any one date over any other date."

"The governor’s always been very deliberative about these things; he doesn’t rush into decisions and he won’t do it for this one — as a matter of fact, he certainly won’t now because he has an extra few days to consider it," Brantley said.

Deal’s spokesman, Harris Blackwood, did not respond to a request for comment.


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