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Georgia Special Election Set for June 19

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) has set June 19 as the date for a special election to fill the 10th district seat of Rep. Charlie Norwood (R), who died last week.

Two GOP state Senators have emerged as the early frontrunners in the Augusta-based seat, which leans heavily toward Republicans.

State Sens. Ralph Hudgens (R) and Jim Whitehead (R) have announced their candidacies. Both men will have to relinquish their state legislative seats once they qualify to run in the special election under Georgia law.

Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) has agreed to set the qualifying date for the Congressional election after the current session of the General Assembly concludes, allowing Hudgens and Whitehead to continue to serve through the end of the session.

State Rep. Barry Fleming (R) also had been expected to run for Norwood’s seat, but he announced he would seek to succeed Whitehead in the state Senate instead. Likewise, former state Sen. Brian Kemp (R), who had been mentioned as a potential Congressional candidate, is running to replace Hudgens.

Whitehead and Hudgens represent different geographical bases in the sprawling Northeastern 10th district.

Whitehead, a former Columbia County Commissioner and owner of Jim Whitehead Tire & Auto, has a political base in suburban Augusta and is likely to benefit from the support of much of Norwood’s political operation there. Hudgens represents an Athens-area district in the state Senate.

One of the few remaining question marks in the race is whether former Athens-Clarke Mayor Doc Eldridge will enter the race. Eldridge, who served as a Democrat but would run in the special as a Republican, has said he is mulling a bid.

Paul Broun, a physician and the son of a longtime former state Senator, also has announced he will run as a Republican to succeed Norwood.

If no candidate gets more than 50 percent in the all-party June special election, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held July 17.

Several Democrats have said they are contemplating running in the special election.

But National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) released a statement Thursday expressing confidence in his party’s ability to hold the seat. President Bush won 65 percent of the vote there in 2004.

“This district has overwhelmingly elected Republican candidates to public office time and again, and this special election will prove to be no different,” Cole said. “The district’s conservative values and solid Republican tradition should make any Democrat think twice before jumping into this race.”

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