Updated: 12:31 p.m.
Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) announced Monday that he will quit his job in Congress March 8 to concentrate full time on his campaign for governor.
Deal made his announcement at the Gainesville Civic Center in front of a crowd of supporters, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Once Deal resigns, a special election will be scheduled to fill out the rest of his term. It’s possible that the state could look to hold the special election to coincide with the regularly scheduled primaries on July 20. The state also has runoffs scheduled for Aug. 10.
There’s a crowded field of Republicans vying for the nomination in Deal’s 9th district. They include state Sen. Lee Hawkins, cardiologist Chris Cates, state Rep. Tom Graves and former state Sen. Bill Stephens. The northwestern Georgia district is staunchly Republican, and the GOP is not expected to have any trouble holding it in a special election.
In mid-December, Deal acknowledged a Congressional ethics investigation into a state-funded program that benefits his family auto-salvage business, but denied any wrongdoing.
That disclosure followed a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealing that both the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and the Office of Congressional Ethics had contacted state offices.
According to campaign finance records available via the Georgia State Ethics Commission, Deal’s gubernatorial campaign has paid more than $21,000 in legal fees to the law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge since July 2009, including a nearly $14,500 payment in November 2009.
As first report by the Journal-Constitution, the ethics investigation appears to focus on Deal’s efforts to halt an overhaul of the state’s system for inspecting rebuilt salvaged vehicles.
According to the newspaper, in early 2008 Deal objected to proposals by a Georgia state official to expand the number of inspection stations in the state and award contracts to those stations through a competitive bidding process.
Together with his business partner Ken Cronan, Deal owns Recovery Services Inc., also known as Gainesville Salvage & Disposal, one of the eight existing inspection stations.
Business records obtained by the Journal-Constitution show Deal’s Gainesville Salvage & Disposal earned $1.5 million from 2004 to 2008 from the salvage inspection program. In his most recent financial disclosure for calendar year 2008, Deal reported earning from $50,000 to $100,000 in dividends from the family business, which is valued from $1 million to $5 million. He also reported earning from $15,000 to $50,000 in rent from the business.