Cobb County Commission chairman Sam Olens will seek the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2010, surprising many Tuesday who expected him to run for governor.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland is “very seriously” looking at a bid for the GOP nomination for governor, the Coweta County congressman’s press secretary told the AJC’s Bob Keefe today.
In a trip to the state last week, Westmoreland got “a lot of encouragement” from Republicans, his spokesman Brian Robinson said.
In a news conference at the commission office in Marietta, Olens said he made his decision through discussions with his family and in realizing the current candidates for governor are basically running “24/7 now and not doing the jobs they were elected to do.”
Those candidates, on the Republican side, are Secretary of State Karen Handel, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and state Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton). States rights activist Ray McBerry is also running. House Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter (R-Johns Creek) is considering a bid. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) this week shouted down rumors he would run for governor instead of seeking-relection to the Senate. Isakson’s staff says their man is dead set on returning to Washington.
At least three Democrats and one Libertarian are also running for governor.
Olens said he wants to continue serving the people of Cobb County but could not if he ran for governor. He plans to resign from the county commission next year and will not seek re-election as chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission when that race comes up this fall.
“I have the ability to continue serving our great county, spending maybe a day a week running for attorney general now, spend much time on weekend campaigning,” Olens said.
“You have to be able to do the job you have now,” he said.
Olens said his work on transportation and water issues would continue as attorney general. The state is now in the midst of litigation with neighboring states over water and that will likely continue into the 2011 and beyond.
“I will be intimately involved in that litigation which is so crucial to our state’s future,” he said.
Transportation, too, would have likely have a need for an activist attorney general, he said.
Olens said he expects to need to raise “seven figures” for the race, but isn’t sure if that’s $1 million or $8 million. He is the first Republican to officially announce for the job, although state Rep. Ed Linsey (R-Atlanta) and Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) are said to be considering a bid.
Incumbent Democrat Thurbert Baker is running for governor. State Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna) has announced a bid for the Democratic nomination.
Teilhet on Tuesday welcomed Olens to the race, saying he looked “forward to discussing how we can best protect Georgians from crime, consumer rip-offs, and crooked politicians.”
Other candidates will get in the race for governor, Olens said, and until the field is set he said he will not endorse one.