Within minutes of U.S. Rep. John Linder’s announcement that he won’t seek a 10th term in Congress, the phone began vibrating.
Late this afternoon, a Washington source called with this surprise: One of the people likely to approached as a candidate for Linder’s seat by Republicans will be former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz.
Smoltz has been paying down some dues in several Republican contests in Georgia over the last two years. He’s been part of a fund-raiser for U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Roswell, and if memory serves, he cut a robo-call for U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss in ‘08.
Linder’s retirement has caught many Republicans off-guard. Who replaces him could be settled in a quickly approaching July primary – the district is trending Democrat, but not that fast. Advantage could go to someone who could put up his own cash, especially in this economy.
Two GOP names certain to be considering a congressional race are state Sens. Don Balfour of Snellville and David Shafer of Duluth. But both are tied up in a desperate session of the Legislature. Both would be free to raise money for a federal contest, but time becomes a big issue.
Smoltz’ advantage in name recognition would be inestimable. And right now, he’s a bit footloose. He hasn’t yet signed a contract for the season. This was written by my AJC colleague Jeff Schultz earlier this month:
Spring training opens next week and John Smoltz doesn’t have a job. This might unnerve most 42-year-old pitchers who don’t want to hear from baseball people or medical people or certainly Joe-in-section-312-with-nacho-sauce-on-his-chin people that his career might be over. But the waiting doesn’t bother Smoltz.
“I’ve been doing what I’ve always done this time of year — throwing every other day and getting ready for the season, ” he said by phone this week while driving to his workout. “I’m at a good place with everything that has gone on in my life. I’m just going to let this play out.”
He is not retiring. Nor has he decided for certain that he will hold off signing with a team until midseason — as Pedro Martinez did with Philadelphia last July — but acknowledges that is a possibility.
“A lot of people are speculating right now, ” he said. “But I can assure you it hasn’t come from anything that I’ve said.”
It’s possible that playoffs for Smoltz could come a little earlier this year.
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