Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a leading Republican contender for governor in 2010, dropped out of the race Wednesday.
Cagle told reporters he has had back and neck pain for several years, but it progressed during the 2009 session to the point where he had some paralysis. He tried therapy, but was advised that he needed surgery.
“I’ve been diagnosed with some serious nerve and bone problems and a degenerative spinal condition,” he told reporters at a Capitol news conference. ” The issue could be hereditary or it could be the result of an old injury, but the unfortunate reality is that it requires immediate surgical treatment.”
Cagle said he will have the surgery and would run for re-election next year to his current job. Running for lieutenant governor is generally seen as less strenuous than running for governor, which is essentially a full-time job.
“This is a challenge I have to face,” Cagle said.
Cagle choked up several times during his announcement at the Capitol. He was surrounded by his family.
Before the announcement, he called two Republican state senators, David Shafer and Eric Johnson, who are already running for lieutenant governor, to tell them of his plans.
Shafer put out a statement after the press conference saying, “We are re-evaluating our options in light of his decision.”
Cagle was on of three top Republican statewide elected officials in the race to replace retiring Gov. Sonny Perdue. The other two are Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and Secretary of State Karen Handel.
Cagle had raised the most money in the race. But he also came under criticism for the General Assembly’s inability to approve a transportation funding plan during the 2009 session.
After Cagle’s announcement, Oxendine called him “a friend,” even though last week he accused the lieutenant governor of stopping key legislation during the 2009 session. He said Cagle and his family would “be in my prayers and I wish him well and a speedy recovery.”
In an earlier statement, Oxendine said, “I would consider it an honor to earn the support of my fellow Republicans who had initially chosen to support Casey Cagle. I am at their service to answer any questions they have about my race, and where I stand on the issues, and help move this party forward with a conservative nominee.”
Republican Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens said Cagle’s announcement “makes it highly likely I will enter the race” for governor.
Former Adjutant General David Poythress, a Democrat running for governor, said, “Casey Cagle would have been a formidable opponent in the general election but we all know that state-wide political campaigns can be volatile. Candidates may come and go, but I’m in the governor’s race until the last vote is counted and expect to be the next governor of Georgia.”
Former Gov. Roy Barnes, another likely candidate for governor, was unavailable for comment.