published Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Georgia: Demanding campaign scares off candidates

By Shannon McCaffrey

The Associated Press

ATLANTA — When Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle announced he was withdrawing from next year’s race for governor, Georgia Republicans seemed all too eager to take his place.

But a little more than a week after Cagle bowed out, several prominent Republicans who publicly flirted with jumping into the marquee contest quickly have decided against it.

U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland became the latest Friday. The Coweta County congressman said he planned to remain in Congress “where I think I can make a difference as a legislative fighter.” His announcement capped a week in which Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens and House Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter also decided against running to replace two-term Gov. Sonny Perdue in next year’s election.

So, despite the furious political jockeying that’s consumed the Georgia GOP in recent days, the field for the race, so far, remains exactly the same: three Republicans and three Democrats.

Republicans still in the race for governor are Secretary of State Karen Handel, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and state Rep. Austin Scott. State Sen. Eric Johnson, currently running for lieutenant governor, is still eying the race for governor.

On the Democratic side, Attorney General Thurbert Baker, House Minority Leader DuBose Porter and former Georgia National Guard Commander David Poythress have said they will run to replace Perdue. Former Gov. Roy Barnes is also considering the race.

“It is the toughest office in state politics to win,” Emory University political science professor Merle Black said of the race for governor.

Many political watchers have predicted the contest could end up being the most expensive in the state’s history.

The 2006 race for governor between Perdue and Democrat Mark Taylor cost a combined $41.7 million, which is believed to be the record in Georgia for governor’s races.

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