Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on Sunday closed the door on a possible return to the governor’s race.
Cagle’s comments followed his first public appearance in Gainesville at a breakfast for the Angler’s Sunday school class at First Baptist Church on Green Street. The event was a fundraiser for Camp Hope, a summer camp for underprivileged youngsters sponsored by the Chattahoochee Baptist Association.
He said returning to the 2010 governor’s race “would be very difficult from a timing perspective.”
The Hall County native announced on Wednesday that he was abandoning his bid for the state’s highest office after doctors discovered a degenerative spinal condition that will require surgery and rehabilitation that could take up to six months.
Cagle said he will have what he called a nerve analysis on Tuesday with doctors at Emory University Medical Center. The outpatient procedure is in preparation for major surgery that he said will take place in late April or early May.
“The physician has warned me about not hurrying back and letting it heal running the risk of developing scar tissue and other things that could occur,” Cagle said. “Just from a practical perspective, to run for governor you’ve got raise about $15 million. To run for re-election as lieutenant governor, you have to raise about $3 million. That’s a big difference and being out for potentially six months would be difficult.”
Cagle was clearly subdued as he shook hands with the crowd that included many supporters going back to his early days as a state senator from Hall County.
He appears to be protective of his left arm, where he began noticing symptoms that included temporary paralysis.
He abandoned the oft-repeated speech that he has used since taking office as lieutenant governor and shared details about the upcoming surgery and described in detail the pain he had experience.
Cagle appeared alone on the stage after a singing quartet performed a song about talking with Jesus.
“That’s something I’m accustomed to of late,” Cagle said, adding later that he had spent time on his knees in prayer.
His only injection of humor was a reference to an end-of-the-session tongue-lashing by state Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, who was in the audience Sunday.
“You might have heard that the session gave me a pain in the neck and it wasn’t Carl Rogers,” Cagle said, drawing laughter from Rogers and those in attendance.
Rogers, in a speech from the House floor, expressed anger at Cagle and Senate leaders for keeping his bill from reaching the full Senate.
Cagle then told of the events that led to his decision to leave the raise despite a lead in both polling and fundraising.
“Often times we set out a path in life and in that path, we believe things are going to work out just the way you expect,” he said. “Oftentimes, God has a little bit different path.”
He told the Sunday school class that he had suffered minor pain in his shoulder for more than six years and had sought medical treatment for the condition.
“I thought it was something I would just have to live with,” he said.
Cagle said in the final days of the session the pain became intense.
“The first thing I thought, was ‘I’m having a heart attack,’” he said
Doctors found no problem with his heart and he was seen by an orthopedic surgeon, who found bone spurs in the lieutenant governor’s neck and degenerative disks in his spine.
Cagle first balked at the notion of surgery.
”I told them my plan is to run for governor and we need to figure out another solution other than surgery,” Cagle said. He said doctors tried an epidural injection, which gave only temporary relief.
He then made the decision to pull out of the governor’s race, undergo surgery and seek re-election to the post he has held since 2006.
State Sen. Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, who announced he would run for lieutenant governor after Cagle announced his bid for governor, told The Times at the 9th District Republican party convention in Jasper Friday night that he hoped Cagle would both recover and reconsider.
“It was a shock,” Johnson said of Cagle’s announcement. “Nobody was expecting it at all.”
Johnson said for now, he is staying put in the lieutenant governor’s race, but adds that could change.
“Obviously, we’ve got to let the smoke clear,” he said. “We’ve got the momentum. We’ve been out 10 months and have raised half a million dollars.”
Johnson said among the things he will take into consideration is whether Cagle’s departure “leaves a vacuum” in the governor’s race.
The Savannah lawmaker served as president pro-tem of the Senate during Cagle’s first two years in office and was considered an ally of the lieutenant governor.
“I pray for a successful recovery. Maybe the surgery will go well and Casey will rethink this and get back in the governor’s race.”
Cagle made it clear on Sunday that his departure from the governor’s race was for good.