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Vacancy in attorney general's office is rare
GOP candidates promise to fight national health care
0712ATTGENKen Hodges
Ken Hodges

Attorney General candidates 
PRIMARY DATE: July 20 (runoff Aug. 10, if necessary). Winners will face Libertarian Don Smart in November.


Ken Hodges
Age: 44
Residence: A
Experience: District Attorney in Albany for 12 years. President of the Georgia District Attorney's Association.

What he'll do if elected:
Run office within or under budget as well as tackle some of the state's most important legal business. Keep office independent, with tradition of answering only to the voters of Georgia. Fight public corruption, protect Georgians from violent crime and ensure our civil rights.

Rob Teilhet
Age: 36
Residence: Smyrna
Experience: State House member since 2002. Partner in Marietta law firm.

What he'll do if elected:
Create Child Protection Unit, expand Georgia's DNA database and participate in national effort to remove registered sex offenders from social networking sites. Seek to improve laws regarding public safety, consumer protection and government ethics. Focus on predatory lending, payday lending, tax anticipation loans, identity theft and other consumer protection measures.


Sam Olens
Age: 52
Residence: Marietta
Experience: Attorney. Chairman of Cobb County Commission, 2002-2010. Chairman of Atlanta Regional Commission, Vice Chair of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District.

What he'll do if elected:
Pursue legal avenues to fight federal takeover of heath care; ensure Georgians have sufficient water supply; strengthen current ethics laws and prosecute elected officials who violate their oaths of office; create statewide grand juries to strengthen and expedite the current criminal justice system; prepare legal defense for 2011 redistricting efforts.

Preston Smith
Age: 37
Residence: Rome
Experience: Elected to state Senate in 2002. Committees include Reapportionment and Redistricting, Health and Human Services, Appropriations, Retirement.

What he'll do if elected:
Will file lawsuit to defend state against Obamacare. Will work with law enforcement to fully enforce our state's illegal immigration law. I helped write the law, it is tough, and we need to fully enforce it. Will defend our Constitution and protecting the hardworking citizens of Georgia.

Max Wood
Age: 50
Residence: Macon
Experience: Air Force veteran. State prosecutor, private attorney in Macon. Served eight years as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

What he'll do if elected:
Plans to continuing challenge in court to Obamacare legislation. Create an appellate division as in other states. Plan to be fully engaged in the "water" litigation and work toward a reasonable settlement. Plan to explore cost effectiveness of opening satellite offices across the state.

Sources: Times research;; candidate websites

Election Guide, with contact information for area voting offices

Complete election coverage

It’s been more than 60 years since there was an open seat for Georgia’s top state attorney position, but with Thurbert Baker leaving the post of attorney general to run for governor, five people are running in what should be a heated race to succeed him.

The attorney general and his staff of lawyers serve as the legal counsel for Georgia’s governor and state agencies of the executive branch, providing legal opinions and going to court to represent the state in civil cases.

The office also prosecutes public corruption cases, can conduct special criminal investigations into state agencies and represents the state in death penalty appeals.

“The biggest job the office has is to make sure that state government obeys the law,” said Michael Bowers, a private attorney who was Georgia’s attorney general for 16 years before resigning in 1997 to make an unsuccessful run for governor.

The toughest job?

“Telling the governor ‘no,’” Bowers said.

“It’s not popular,” Bowers said, recalling that he had to file two lawsuits against the governor during his tenure in the office. “Governors are strong-willed folks, and when some lawyer tells them, ‘No, you can’t do that,’ it makes them mad.”

Baker, a Democrat, likely angered Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue when he declined to go along with a plan to file suit over the federal health care overhaul. The three Republican candidates for attorney general, Sam Olens, Preston Smith and Max Wood, all vow they would fight the health care plan passed by Congress if elected.

The candidates, including Democrats Ken Hodges and Rob Teilhet, also pledge to take a more proactive role in law enforcement.
Bowers says such campaign promises are “a natural reaction to the political system.”

It’s kind of hard for (voters) to get real worked up over, ‘I’m going to give real good representation to state government,’ and there’s only so much you can say about the death penalty, so the tendency is to move toward the prosecution side,” Bowers said of attorney general campaigns.

This election cycle Georgians are seeing more television spots for the attorney general’s race than usual.

And with TV ads costing big money, whoever tops the fundraising race could win the election.

As of the June 30 reporting deadline, Hodges, the Democratic ex-district attorney for the circuit that includes Albany, led all candidates with $783,206. Olens, a former Cobb County commissioner, was second in fundraising and leads the Republican candidates with $767,414.

“It will be very critical to be able to raise enough money to get a message out that reaches enough people and which resonates with people,” Bowers said.

Whether the attorney general race, more competitive than it has been in decades, captures much attention from the voting public remains largely unknown.

“I’m not sure in any given down-ticket race how much people pay attention,” Bowers said. “(But) I don’t know of any better method of selecting an attorney general than elections.”