Doug Collins, a state House member from Gainesville, on Thursday became the first to officially proclaim himself a candidate for Georgia's new seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
He is expected to be one of many in a race to represent the new 9th District in conservative Northeast Georgia.
Collins announced his candidacy Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after the state Senate signed off on a new congressional map for Georgia that adds a 14th district for the U.S. House.
"Our country is truly at a crossroads and we need bold, conservative leadership to get us back on track," Collins said in a statement released Thursday morning.
Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to put his stamp of approval on Georgia's new congressional map any day.
The new district lines must be pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice, under the Voting Rights Act, because of Georgia's history of racial discrimination.
The new district awaiting the governor's approval stretches from Fannin and Gilmer counties in the north to Elbert County on the state line with South Carolina.
It takes in parts of Clarke, Forsyth and Pickens counties, with its population anchored in Hall, home base of the current 9th District until Rep. Tom Graves of Ranger was elected last year.
His campaign manager, Bryan Miller, says Collins will file a report of contributions with the Federal Elections Commission at the end of the month.
Already, the campaign has filed paperwork with the commission establishing a campaign committee that allows Collins to raise and spend money for his congressional bid.
Miller said he expects the new district will have garnered Justice Department approval by the time qualifying begins in April.
"We feel confident that the 9th District will stay as is ..." Miller said. "That is one reason why we decided to come out the gate, because if we didn't — if we waited a couple of weeks to see what the Justice Department was going to do — that would not give us much time to fundraise before that first report."
The Justice Department has, so far, cleared maps for Louisiana and Virginia this year and under the Obama administration has yet to deny pre-clearance to any state in this redistricting round.
Georgia and eight other states - mostly in the South — must receive pre-clearance of any election-related changes under the Voting Rights Act, because of a past history of discrimination.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act bans covered states and jurisdictions from diminishing black voters' ability to elect the candidate of their choice — saying essentially that once a state has built up minority voting power, it is illegal for the state to reduce that voting power.
Georgia's top leaders have not yet decided how they will pursue pre-clearance of the state's new political boundaries.
Deal released a statement Thursday afternoon that said he, along with House Speaker David Ralston, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Attorney General Sam Olens will decide in the coming days whether to seek approval through the courts or the Justice Department.
"We are in consultation about what will be the most expeditious way to move forward," Deal said in a statement.
Miller said Collins' campaign staff trusts the new Northeast Georgia district enough to move forward and get a head start on earning name recognition in the 20-county district.
"We plan on spending time outside of Hall County, traveling the district, going to counties that we're not known in, getting to know people, talking to business leaders, talking to teachers, talking to farmers and telling them why we believe we're the best guy for the job," Miller said.
Collins, first elected to the state House in 2006, is one of Deal's appointed floor leaders.
His current House district covers Hall County north of Gainesville and portions of White and Lumpkin counties.
He faces possible opposition from conservative radio personality Martha Zoller, Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic, and state Sens. Jim Butterworth, Bill Cowsert and Jack Murphy - all who have said they are at least considering the possibility of a congressional run.
Collins practices law in Gainesville. He and his wife Lisa have three children: a daughter, Jordan, 19, and two sons, Copelan, 15, and Cameron, 12.