State Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome) will run for attorney general, taking advantage of a recent surge of publicity over his battle with party elders over a proposed tax increase.
Smith is the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said in a news release Monday that he will file paperwork tomorrow to run for attorney general, joining former Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens and former prosecutor Max Wood in seeking the GOP nomination.
Smith lost his committee chairmanship this month after refusing to back a new tax on hospital profits. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, also a Republican, and other Senate Republican leaders said the GOP caucus took a position to back the bill. HB 307 would impose a hospital tax to help fill a $600 million gap in Medicaid funding. It passed the Senate despite Smith’s objections.
Smith refused to go along and was stripped of his committee chairmanship.
In his announcement, Smith made only passing reference to the fracas in the Senate.
“The time has come for Georgians to have an independent minded prosecutor who will end the arm-twisting and backroom deal-making that has become business-as-usual in modern politics. With your support, I pledge to be an attorney general who has the courage to fight for the people of Georgia.”
Candidate qualifying didn’t officially begin until 9 a.m. this morning at the state Capitol, but Rep. Steve Davis (R-McDonough) was in line by 7:05.
Davis said he’s qualified first on the Republican side for four consecutive terms and wanted to continue that trend. But when House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) came over around 8:45, Davis wisely allowed the big man to go first.
“Oh yeah, no question,” Davis said, smiling. He and Ralston posed for a picture together.
To be fair, it appears as if Ralston had a well-dressed young man holding a spot up front for him.
For those interested, Secretary of State Brian Kemp has said up a live qualifying Web site that will be updated as candidates file paperwork throughout the day. Qualifying runs every day this week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for Friday when it ends at noon.
There were few surprises on this first day of the week-long qualifying session, other than the location. Qualifying is typically held in the House and Senate chambers, with Republicans filing paperwork in one chamber and Democrats taking the other. But, because the General Assembly is still in session, meeting Tuesday and Thursday this week, qualifying was moved downstairs to a pair of conference rooms on the second floor.
Still, the decision by a pair of Republicans to challenge each other for a suddenly open Senate seat did raise a few eyebrows. Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) and former DeKalb County GOP chairman Jamie Sibold both qualified to run for Senate District 40. Sen. Dan Weber (R-Dunwoody), the holder of that seat since 2004’s election, has decided not to run again.
On the Democratic side, Beth Farokhi was the first to qualifying. She’s running for state schools superintendent.
Among other notable Democrats to appear early where U.S. Reps. John Lewis, John Barrow and Hank Johnson. There was no sign yet of former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones, who has said he will run against Johnson in the primary.
No gubernatorial candidates had appeared by 10 a.m. Much of the crowd gathered were awaiting the appearance of Ray Boyd, the engimatic Republican from Morgan County who put $2 million of his own money into the campaign and who has said he will not sign a loyalty oath required by the GOP. State party chairwoman Sue Everhart was at the Capitol this morning and reiterated that if Boyd doesn’t sign the oath, he won’t be running as a Republican.
The only real matter of suspense this week deals with the governor’s race, however. The question of whether Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton) will file to run for governor or lieutenant governor has tongues wagging at the Capitol. Scott has been dutifully running for the top job for the past year. But over the past week Scott has been considering dropping down and challenging incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
By 10:30 a.m., neither Cagle or Scott had filed for anything.
Check back for updates.
Update 10:40 a.m.: Cagle has qualified for re-election.
Update 11:57 a.m.: More of the big guns have qualified now. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who will cap the Republican ticket, signed up and then held an event on the steps just off the rotunda surrounded by more than 100 supporters.
Meanwhile, one of this two Democratic opponents, R.J. Hadley of Rockdale County, qualified earlier this morning. The other, Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, has yet to qualify.
Vernon Jones came to file paperwork to challenge Hank Johnson, as promised. And, we have our first official gubernatorial candidate in House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin). Porter’s wife, Carol, also qualified to run for lieutenant governor.
Update 4:26 p.m.: See this other post for all the news on the Ray Boyd situation.