Update: Johnson resigns from Senate to focus on gov bid

Updated throughout 2:36 p.m:

Republican Eric Johnson on Tuesday resigned from the state Senate, giving himself a leg up in the money race as he makes a bid for the 2010 GOP nomination for governor.

Johnson, who was chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and served in the General Assembly for 17 years, made the announcement at a Capitol news conference.

By resigning, Johnson would freed himself from a state law that bans elected state officials from raising money during the annual meeting of the General Assembly. He will be one of only two of the top Republican challengers who will be able to raise money during this critical period before the July primary.

The legislature meets for 40 days beginning in January, but the session typically lasts until at least early April. The prohibition on fund-raising during this time can be a severe limitation for candidates.

But Johnson said campaign finances were not his motivating factor in the decision.

“I became convinced I couldn’t do both jobs,” Johnson, a former Senate president pro tem, said.

The needs of a statewide gubernatorial race threatened to detract from his duties to the 1st senatorial district, he said. Resigning now allows enough time for a special election to be held for his seat on the same day as local elections this fall.

Only Johnson and U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, along with longshot states rights candidate Ray McBerry,  would be allowed to accept contributions. (The ban does not apply to Deal since he is governed by federal election law as a congressman.)

Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, Secretary of State Karen Handel, state Rep. Austin Scott and state Sen. Jeff Chapman would be barred.

The move has the potential to shake-up the race.

Johnson had already reported raising $962,000 in June, the last time candidates were required to disclose campaign finances, second most to Deal’s $975,000.

By resigning, Johnson puts pressure on Handel, who disappointed many observers by reporting that she had raised  $430,000 through the same period.

Oxendine, who had reported having more than $1 million in cash on hand on June 1, had only raised $416,000 in the first six months of the year (not counting the 2009 legislative session).

Johnson had $913,000 on hand to Deal’s $1.15  million.

Johnson said while fund  raising wasn’t the driving issue in his decision, resigning now will help nonetheless.

“We’ve got the best finance team put together,” Johnson said.

Johnson  had originally planned to run for lieutenant governor. But when incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle  decided to run for re-election rather than seek the governor’s office, Johnson jumped into the top race.

In a statement Tuesday, Cagle commended Johnson’s service.

“Eric Johnson has given many years of diligent, hard work and thoughtful service to the state of Georgia,” Cagle said. “He will be greatly missed by his friends in the Senate.”

15 comments Add your comment

GoOx

September 15th, 2009
2:12 pm

My man Ox will pummel Johnson, no matter how much money he raises. Nice of Eric to bail on the people who elected him.

Joseph

September 15th, 2009
2:34 pm

Yet another politician that puts their hunger for power above their constituents. Eric Johnson ought to be ashamed of himself. Your constituents voted for you to serve your full term. They come before your next position. You have let them down.

You can run for Governor and retain your seat. Austin Scott, John Oxendine, and Karen Handel are doing it. I hope this gives people an insite into Eric Johnson’s character.

Naomi

September 15th, 2009
2:34 pm

Is it really objective and unbiased journalism to constantly label a candidate a “long shot”? Particularly when said candidate has over 1000 volunteers working on his campaign? The AJC has obviously chosen their candidate, and has decided to downplay all others. Journalism is dead, and opinionated articles, biased newscasts, and establishment propaganda reign. No matter who you support in this race, you have to admit that the AJC has been unfair in their reporting.

usoo

September 15th, 2009
2:44 pm

Eric Johnson is not fulfilling his term of office and is sticking it to the taxpayers of his district by having to fund another election. He should have done this from the start, but I guess he wanted to milk every per diem dollar he could get out of the State’s budget. He’s just another self-centered and greedy Republican. Wake up, Georgia!!

Jeff

September 15th, 2009
2:44 pm

Naomi:

Ray, from what I hear, is a great guy. I’ve talked to him a few times online, and I look forward to meeting him when he comes down to Albany soon on his States’ Rights Tour. That said, realistically he stands about ZERO chance of actually being the Republican Party’s nominee for Governor.

Heck, let’s be honest here. I tend to prefer Austin Scott myself (as far as the GOP goes… I’m voting for John Monds next November), but even he only has about 0.5% chance of actually being the GOP nominee for Governor.

Realistically, the battle for the GOP nomination for Governor really is one of 4 ppl right now: Johnson, Deal, Handel, and that other guy that portrays himself as a sterile bull. With today’s action, only two of those can raise money from Jan 2010 – ~April 2010 – and those two were the top 2 fundraisers on the latest disclosure reports.

Aaron Gould Sheinin

September 15th, 2009
2:54 pm

Jeff, I wish I had written this part this clearly!

“Realistically, the battle for the GOP nomination for Governor really is one of 4 ppl right now: Johnson, Deal, Handel, and that other guy that portrays himself as a sterile bull. With today’s action, only two of those can raise money from Jan 2010 – ~April 2010 – and those two were the top 2 fundraisers on the latest disclosure reports.”

Aaron Gould Sheinin

September 15th, 2009
2:54 pm

NOT, NOT meaning the part about the sterile bull. I meant the part about explaining the fund raising issue!

Aaron Gould Sheinin

September 15th, 2009
3:06 pm

Naomi, sorry you don’t like the label “long shot” when it comes to McBerry. But the fact is that that is what he is. I don’t believe that is biased or unfair. If you ask him, he’ll tell you the same thing.

Jeff

September 15th, 2009
3:08 pm

Thanks Aaron, always glad to know the pros like what I do!

As for The Sterile Bull, my feelings on him are well known, and for those who visit here who might not know, feel free to search my name on PeachPundit or go to my own blog, SWGAPolitics.com, and search for “John Oxendine”. Not blaming you a bit for the clarification on that remark.

Aaron Gould Sheinin

September 15th, 2009
3:23 pm

Yeah, realized that could have been taken completely the wrong way … I’m familiar with your work on PP. I’ll check out SWGAPolitics.com more now.

Barker

September 15th, 2009
4:49 pm

Has anyone see Hank Johnson’s (D-Ga) latest racist comments? He was just on CNN talking about white hoods. More race card playing. Shocker.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/glennthrush/

jay

September 15th, 2009
5:16 pm

There is a such thing as white hood. You live in one.

GoOx

September 16th, 2009
10:31 am

My man Ox was respectful is his comments about former Sen. Johnson. Look how Austin Scott responded on Twitter yesterday:

“ScottForGA: Can’t take on both simultaneously? How will you ever be Governor? I’m sorry you abandoned the responsibility of your elected office, Eric.”

CD

September 19th, 2009
8:42 am

GoOx, why do you take issue with Scotts response? You said yourself in an earlier post that it was “Nice of Eric to bail on the people who elected him.”

ice

September 23rd, 2009
12:16 pm

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