It’s officially election season in Georgia.
From the courthouse to the statehouse, candidates began qualifying for a spot in the July 15 party primaries.
On Monday, Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell became the first candidate to draw an opponent in the July 15 Republican primary.
Chris Masters, who was first vice chairman of the Hall County GOP, resigned his party post to run against Powell in District 2. Both men qualified Monday morning.
Hall County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver qualified for a second term on Monday afternoon, seeking to become the first chairman in three decades to win a second term.On the Democratic side, Gainesville attorney Ashley Bell became the first to qualify for District 4, a county commission seat held by Deborah Mack, who is expected to seek re-election. Bell was the only Democrat to qualify locally on Monday.
Also qualifying were Sheriff Steve Cronic, Solicitor General Larry Baldwin and Magistrate Judge Margaret Gregory, all incumbents and Republicans.
J.C. Smith qualified to run for clerk of court, and Dan Sammons qualified to run for probate judge, both on the Republican ticket.
Mark Musselwhite, a former Gainesville city councilman who lost a bid for the state Senate in 2006, said Monday that he was eyeing a bid for elective office this year. He said he was trying to decide between a statewide race for the Georgia Public Service Commission and a race in Hall County. He declined to identify the local office.
Former Public Service Commissioner Lauren "Bubba" McDonald Jr. of Clarkesville qualified to seek his former PSC post. The incumbent, Angela Speir, is not running for a second six-year term.
At the state capitol, papers were filed for U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, who is seeking an eighth term in Congress.
Jim Martin, a Vietnam veteran, became the first Democrat to put his name on the ballot Monday against U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
"I served in Vietnam. He didn’t," Martin told reporters on Monday.
Martin, a former state lawmaker and Department of Human Resources commissioner, called Chambliss "a rubber stamp for George Bush and Dick Cheney."
Chambliss qualified earlier in the day, drawing a swarm of television cameras. His re-election bid will be the top state race on the ballot this fall. Chambliss reiterated his tough stance against terrorism, support for wounded warriors returning from Iraq and the need to jump-start the sluggish economy.
Although Chambliss holds a commanding fundraising lead over any of his Democratic opponents, he predicted a tough race in a year when the presidential race will drive voters to the polls.
"I know that the Democrats in this state are energized," he said. "There’s an awful lot of them that want to see me out of office, and they’re going to do everything they can to make sure that happens."
Also on Monday, all five members of the Hall County legislative delegation qualified for re-election.
Reps. James Mills, Carl Rogers, Tommy Benton and Doug Collins paid their $400 fee to enter the Republican primary, as did state Sen. Lee Hawkins of Gainesville.
Also qualifying Monday, was state Sen. Nancy Schaefer, R-Turnerville, who had announced and later abandoned a bid for the 10th District seat in Congress. Schaefer’s withdrawal cited the illness of her husband and gave no indication she would seek a return to the Senate. She has two Republican opponents who qualified Monday, Jim Butterworth of Cornelia and Terry Rogers of Clarkesville.
Sen. Eugene "Chip" Pearson, R-Dawsonville, also qualified for his third term on Monday.
Bobby Saxon, a Democrat from Nicholson, became the first to sign up for the 10th District congressional race. Saxon, an Army veteran and Georgia National Guard major who served with the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq, is challenging freshman Rep. Paul Broun of Athens in the 10th Congressional District in Northeast Georgia. Broun, a Republican who was elected in a special election to fill the seat of the late Charlie Norwood, will face state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem. Fleming has amassed a considerable war chest for the race, while Broun is struggling to repay campaign debts from 2007.
Qualifying ends at noon on Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.