Qualifying is closed and the
field is set for the special election on February 12 for State
Senate District 48, formerly held by Billy Ray. Ray's seat became
vacant last week when he was named a Gwinnett Superior Court judge.
The winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of
Ray's term, which ends this year. If no candidate receives a
majority of the vote, a runoff would be held on March 5.
David Shafer, a Duluth
corporate public relations consultant and former executive director
of the state GOP, has been campaigning hard for weeks and has
amassed an impressive list of endorsements, which can be found at
his web site [link below].
Rep. Bobby Reese (R-Sugar Hill)
resigned from the State House on the fourth day of the 2002 Regular
Session to get in the race. Reese's resignation will require yet
another special election; the Governor has set the date for February
26. Qualifying for the 85th House District, which covers north
Gwinnett will take place Jan. 28-30.
Rounding out the field of four
is J.D. Elliott, a Duluth Democrat who challenged Ray for the 48th
seat in 1996; and Nathan Warnock, a Buford mortgage banker who
publicly claims no party membership. The special election is a
non-partisan race and does not require affiliation with a political
IN OR OUT? POLITICAL
The days before qualifying
brought a flurry of activity amongst those considering a run at the
open seat. Homeowner activists in County Commission District 1 were
gearing up for an "anti-campaign" against former Commissioner Tommy
Hughes, a Buford commercial real estate developer who had hinted at
running. Disappointed that Hughes ultimately decided to pass on the
vacant 48th seat, activists see this as an indication that they will
finally get their shot at Hughes in the race for the new 45th Senate
District later this year.
Sunny Warren resigned her
position as Chairman of the Gwinnett Republican Party on Monday in
preparation for her candidacy. Prior to qualifying, however, Warren
called a well-known political consultant for help. After a few phone
calls to local GOP leaders and others in Gwinnett, the consultant
broke the disappointing news: Sunny didn't have the support from her
own party that would be required to win in a shortened campaign.
Warren's decision not to run
hinged also in part on Bobby Reese's decision to qualify. Reese
enters the race with several strikes against him, including a
potential backlash resulting from his resignation. New state ethics
laws require Reese to refund any money currently held in his
campaign fund and start over from zero. While it is likely that
Reese might be able to convince most of those donors to contribute
to his Senate campaign, the lack of money at the outset of a
three-week campaign puts Reese at a decided disadvantage.
Reese had reportedly told
constituents and party leaders that he would never resign his seat
in the middle of a Legislative Session to seek higher office.
Reese's 85th House District is contained within the 48th Senate
District lines. Thanks to Ray's appointment to the Superior Court
and Reese's resignation, a large portion of Forsyth and Gwinnett
County has no representation in EITHER house of the General Assembly
during this critical election year Legislative Session.
Others are more upset about the
timing of Reese's resignation. Had Reese resigned at the same time
Billy Ray's appointment was announced, the special election for his
State House seat could have been held on the same day as the special
election for the State Senate seat. By declaring his Senate
candidacy just a few days earlier, Gwinnett and Forsyth Counties
could have been spared the expense of holding two separate special
A FIRST LOOK AT THE
Bobby Reese: Reese leaves the
House of Representatives at the beginning of his fourth year. During
2001, Reese co-sponsored several bills with other legislators but
apparently initiated no bills of his own except for a series of
commendations of high school basketball players in his district. At
the time of his resignation, Reese served on the House Agriculture
and Consumer Affairs Committee, the Defense and Veterans Affairs
Committee, and the Special Judiciary Committee. Reese, a Realtor,
was known as a conservative legislator during his three years in
J.D. Elliott: A Duluth
businessman, Elliott lost to Billy Ray in 1996 (a Presidential
Election year) with 30% of the 68,607 votes counted. In fact,
Elliott was probably the only Democrat (running as a Democrat) in
recent memory who has been able to break the 30% mark in Gwinnett.
In 1997, Elliott said that the key to breaking the Republican
domination of Gwinnett's political system was to get Democrats
appointed to lower-profile positions, especially those related to
Nathan Warnock: Little is
currently known about Warnock beyond what information he provided
when he qualified and his statements in news reports this week.
Warnock, a resident of Buford, claims no party affiliation. "I like
things about both [Democrat and Republican], and I dislike things
about both," he reportedly said.
David Shafer, a Duluth
businessman, set his sights on the 48th Senate seat early. Most
likely as a result of his experience in the Republican Party and his
understanding of State-level politics, Shafer correctly anticipated
Ray's judicial appointment and started ramping up a campaign weeks
ago. Even before the others were out of the starting blocks, Shafer
had garnered the support of a multitude of elected leaders from
across Gwinnett, Forsyth and Fulton Counties. He is also most likely
the best-funded candidate of the four.
The 48th District covers
north-central Gwinnett including most of Duluth, the northern half
of Lawrenceville and as far south as Grayson and Loganville (north
of Hwy. 78 to the Walton County line). The District also includes
the southern half of Forsyth County, including the city of Cumming.
It also encompasses part of northeastern Fulton County, including
part of the city of Alpharetta. With more than 310,000 residents,
it's the largest Senate district in the state.
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