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Deal fills key roles on campaign staff
Blackwood, Wilheit join Republicans bid for governor
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Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, has filled three key leadership positions on his campaign staff in his bid for governor in 2010.

Joining Deal’s effort is chief of staff Chris Riley, communications director Harris Blackwood and statewide campaign chairman Philip Wilheit.

Blackwood most recently served as community editor of The Times, covering business and state politics and writing columns two days a week. His columns will continue to appear in the Sunday Life section.

A native of Walton County, Blackwood has lived in Gainesville for more than 20 years. He began covering state politics at age 15 for The Walton Tribune, and has earned several awards for column writing from the Georgia Press Association.

"One of our first steps was to bring Harris Blackwood on board," Deal said. "His career as a respected reporter has taken him throughout Georgia and he is well known for his coverage of major issues in the state."

Wilheit, a Gainesville businessman, has previously chaired Deal’s campaigns for the state Senate and for Congress.

Riley is longtime chief of staff of Deal’s congressional office, where he has worked since 1993. Riley is a native of Gainesville and graduate of Georgia Southern University.

"Chris Riley has been a trusted adviser for my entire congressional career and was the logical choice to direct our new effort," Deal said.

Deal is seeking the Republican nomination for governor against a handful of opponents, including Secretary of State Karen Handel, state Sen. Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, Ray McBerry of McDonough, state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and State Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton.

Democrats in the race include Attorney General Thurbert Baker, House Minority Leader DuBose Porter and former Georgia National Guard commander David Poythress.