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9th District candidates may get a head start
Deal vacates seat, leaving room for special election
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Most of the candidates who already had hopes to be elected as Georgia’s 9th District congressman in November now say they have their sights set on finishing out the last few months of U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal’s current term.
Deal announced Monday that he will resign from the U.S. House of Representatives to focus on his campaign for Georgia governor, but local and state officials are still unsure how and when his open seat will be filled.
The decision is up to Gov. Sonny Perdue, who has more than two weeks to make the choice.
“The law says within 10 days of the vacancy — which is Monday — the governor has to issue a writ of election, and that election can be no sooner than 30 days from that date,” said Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Perdue.
Hall County Interim Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee said the special election will add to preparations for an already hectic election season.
Her office has been in high gear since Deal’s announcement and is preparing to hold a special election as early as April if the governor should decide to do so.
Sosebee said the elections office had already begun preparations for the July primary, but is now notifying people of the special election.
“We will have to do everything related to an election,” Sosebee said. “There’s nothing we can’t handle of course.”
Sosebee and Barbara Luth, supervisor of voter registrations and elections in Forsyth County, said holding the special election during the summer would be preferable to allow for more time to prepare and to save money.
“It would put a strain on the budget,” Luth said. “It would be better if they would do it in the July primary.”
State officials are also considering holding the special election at the same time as the July primary, Brantley said.
“There’s no end date,” he said. “So anything is possible from that date forward.”
If the governor decides to set the special election in July, it will not affect the regularly scheduled primary election.
“The secretary of state will set qualifying dates for whenever the special election is held and those dates could be or could not be congruent with the primary election,” Brantley said. “The primary election will go on as scheduled no matter what happens with the special election.”
Glenda Ferguson, elections supervisor and chief registrar of Dawson County, said holding the special election in July would be more economical.
“It would be very difficult for us to get together a (standalone) special election,” Ferguson said. “If we did, you’re talking anywhere from $9,000 to $15,000.”
Most of the candidates in the crowded 9th District race said Monday that they definitely plan to run in the special election — except state Rep. Bobby Reese, R-Sugar Hill, who said he was unsure, and Gainesville candidate Eugene Moon, who said he did not think that an independent candidate was allowed to participate in a special election.
By press time Monday, Reese had not decided whether he would take part in a special election. He said his fiscally conservative values may contradict participating in an expensive special election.
But all the other candidates already in the race had no doubts. Ringgold businessman Jeremy Jones, went as far as to say he would drop out of the general election if elected in the special election.
Campaigning while in office would be a disservice to constituents, Jones said. But whether or not Jones would have time to do so is still a question, he said.
“I think it is incumbent upon whoever wins the special election to commit themselves to serving the people of Georgia,” Jones said.
Running in the special election will mean that candidates who currently hold other offices, like Reese, state Sen. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, and state Rep. Tom Graves will have to resign from their posts.
A spokesman for Graves’ campaign said the Republican from Ranger will decide his fate in the statehouse when the governor makes his decision.
“We’re waiting for that time line right now,” said Tim Baker, a spokesman for Graves’ congressional campaign.
Ashley Fielding contributed to this report.
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