State Sen. Lee Hawkins of Gainesville said he feels compelled to run for Congress because health care reform is headed in the "totally wrong direction."
The Republican said Thursday he will seek U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal’s 9th District House seat. Deal is running for Georgia governor in 2010.
"I’ve enjoyed the Senate, and I feel like I can do even a better job for the people of North Georgia in Congress," Hawkins said.
Hawkins, a 58-year-old Gainesville dentist, said he feels he should be a part of federal health care reform.
"I’m used to taking care of people, and this health care debate has just been going in the totally wrong direction," Hawkins said. "... I feel a responsibility to work on this issue along with other issues, like our lake issue, so I’ve announced to run for Congress."
He will officially announce his candidacy at noon Tuesday at his dental offices at 404 Green St. NE. The public is invited to attend.
Hawkins joins a race that, so far, includes fellow Republicans Mike Evans of Cumming, a former state representative and former chairman of the state Board of Transportation; Bill Stephens of Cumming, former state Senate majority leader; state Rep. Tom Graves of Ranger; Ringgold businessman Jeremy Jones; and Whitfield County Commissioner Mike Cowan.
Independent candidate Eugene Moon of Gainesville also is in the race. No Democrats have yet declared an intent to run.
The 9th District includes much of North Georgia and stretches from Hall County to Northwest Georgia.
Most of the Republicans competing with Hawkins for the 9th District congressional seat jumped in the race months ago — as soon as it was clear that Deal would leave the post to run for governor.
Both Graves and Evans raised upward of $100,000 for their campaigns by the June 30 campaign reporting deadline, according to the Federal Elections Commission.
Stephens said he was not surprised that Hawkins will be the fifth Republican to enter the race.
"There have only been three congressmen in North Georgia in 57 years, so there’s a lot of pent-up demand," Stephens said.
Prior to Deal, who was elected in 1992, the district was represented in Washington by Ed Jenkins (1977-93) and the late Phil Landrum (1953-77).
Hawkins has held the District 49 Senate seat since 2006. He is currently the vice chairman of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee and secretary of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.
Though he has his eyes on Washington, Hawkins said he plans to continue his work in the General Assembly through the end of his Senate term, which ends next July.
"I’m going to be in Atlanta," Hawkins said. "I’m committed to that. I ran for that, so I’m going to be there through my term."
Fellow state legislators are wishing Hawkins well — some with their eyes on the Senate seat he will leave behind.
State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said Hawkins’ years as a dentist and his experience on the Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment have prepared him to tackle water and health care issues on a federal level.
"If anybody should be knowledgeable on health care and other issues, especially water, Lee is," Rogers said. "I’m glad he’s doing what he’s doing. He wanted to do it and he’s very capable."
Both Rogers and State Rep. Doug Collins, Gainesville Republicans, say they are considering a run for Hawkins’ Senate seat. Neither, however, has any plans for a formal announcement before Hawkins’ campaign kickoff Tuesday.