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Political Pulse: Tea Party Patriots off to DC; Collins courts female voters
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The local tea party group, Lanier Tea Party Patriots, says it's loading up a bus bound for Washington, D.C., this weekend to protest federal health care mandates.

Their trip precedes oral arguments on the federal health care law. John Lipscomb with the group said about 50 folks from Hall County are going to "make sure that local voices" expressing the belief that the individual mandate in the law gives the government too much power over citizens' lives are heard in D.C.

Speaking of D.C., Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, is bringing out his she-guns in the competition to be Georgia's newest congressman. Today, the campaign is having a "Women for Collins" luncheon, which serves as part fundraiser (ticket prices range from $25 for an attendee to $500 for hosts of a table of eight) and part demonstration of Collins' credibility among the womenfolk in the new 9th House District.

Georgia's former first lady, Shirley Miller, and its most powerful female lawmaker, Jan Jones, are among those scheduled to speak.

If you remember the 2010 gubernatorial race, Jones flew around the state campaigning with Gov. Nathan Deal when he faced former Secretary of State Karen Handel in a runoff for the Republican nomination.

Collins is running for the new 9th District seat that would represent all or parts of 20 counties in Northeast Georgia. He faces three other men - Jackson County Commission Chairman Hunter Bicknell; former Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Clifton McDuffie; and White County elementary school principal Roger Fitzpatrick - and one woman, radio personality Martha Zoller. All are Republicans.

Fitzpatrick, the campaign's newest competitor, originally sought the seat as an independent candidate. But he confirmed Thursday that he's going the Republican route.

On the phone, Fitzpatrick told me that two things influenced his decision to pick a side of the aisle: the difficulty of getting his name on the ballot as an independent and the perception of the voters.

The first one's easy to understand. In Georgia, a candidate not affiliated with either of the two main political parties has to get the signatures of at least 5 percent of the eligible registered voters in the district. I haven't done the math, but I'd guess that the number is somewhere above 20,000.

The second reason is a little more interesting.

Fitzpatrick says people he trusted told him that even if he accessed the ballot as an independent, he'd have a hard time winning in the heartland of dogmatic conservatism.

Fitzpatrick even admits that if he were in the ballot booth faced with a Republican he didn't know and an independent he didn't know, he'd likely go with the Republican. And Fitzpatrick said he knows not every voter who heads to the polls to choose a new congressman will know him.

"Most people are probably like me," he said. "They're going to vote for a known party rather than an independent."

Fitzpatrick's original argument for running as an independent was to be a "voice of reason" sounding the trumpet of civility in a Congress that seems, more often than not, to play a partisan blame game.

But he said the decision to choose a side of the aisle doesn't change his beliefs.

"Just because I have a label with an ‘R' next to it doesn't mean I can't talk to people ..." Fitzpatrick said. "I just decided to work within the system."

Ashley Fielding is the senior political reporter for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with her:
afielding@gainesvilletimes.com
facebook.com/ashleylfielding
@HallCoPolitics

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