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Legislator appointments open floodgates
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ATLANTA — Twenty-five Georgians are vying for four state legislative seats left vacant as Gov. Nathan Deal has handpicked House and Senate lawmakers for state jobs.

The elections will take place Nov. 8, which will mostly feature municipal races as well a number of local ballot measures to permit the Sunday sale of alcohol.

Voters will be filling a state Senate district in western Georgia. In the northern part of the state, they will also select a new state senator and a pair of new House members.

The crowded fields mean some of the races will likely head to a runoff if none of the candidates earn more than 50 percent of the vote. Needed runoffs will be held Dec. 6.

A look at the contests:

— Deal selected state Sen. Mitch Seabaugh to become deputy state treasurer. The Sharpsburg Republican had led the redistricting efforts in the chamber earlier this year. Ten people — seven Republicans, two Democrats and one non-partisan candidate — have qualified to replace Seabaugh in the district which covers Coweta and Heard Counties as well as portions of Carroll and Troup Counties. They are: Cynthia C. Bennett, non-partisan, of Newnan; Republicans Duke Blackburn, of Newnan; Matt Brass, of Newnan; Mike Crane, of Newnan; Kyle Frank, of Senoia; Dale Pepper, of Newnan; Edward Stone, of Senoia and Mark Washington, of Newnan. Democrats in the race are M. Seabolt, of Roopville and Jammie Williams, of Sharpsburg.

— State Sen. Jim Butterworth, of Cornelia, was picked by Deal to head up the Georgia National Guard. The pilot and U.S. Air Force veteran was a floor leader for Deal and helped usher through an overhaul of the HOPE scholarship. The district covers Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Hart, Rabun, Stephens and Towns counties and a portion of White County. Among those running to replace Butterworth are state Rep. Rick Austin, a Demorest Republican. Three other Republicans seeking the Senate seat are: Curtis Burger, of Lavonia; David Strickland, of Royston and John Wilkinson, of Toccoa. Democrat Mary Beth Focer, of Hartwell, is also running.

— Austin's decision to seek the Senate seat opens his House seat, based in Habersham County. Three Republicans are seeking the seat Austin had held since 2008. They are J. Bruce Harkness, Sr., of Demorest; Lori Duke Jones, of Mt. Airy and Terry Rogers of Clarkesville.

— Deal named state Rep. James Mills, of Gainesville, to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. Seven candidates have lined up to replace Mills representing part of Hall County. The six Republicans are Bobby Banks, of Oakwood; Emory West Dunahoo, Jr., of Gainesville; Dominic Ottaviano, of Flowery Branch; Todd Reed, of Oakwood; William "Sonny" Sykes, of Flowery Branch; Kris Yardley, of Flowery Branch. The lone Democrat in the race is Paul Godfrey, of Flowery Branch.

In addition to the elections that have been scheduled, two other lawmakers are departing.

State Rep. Tim Bearden, a Villa Rica Republican, has been selected by Deal to lead the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. The former police officer must be approval by the Georgia Board of Public Safety. An election has not been set yet to fill his seat.

Also, state Rep. Doug Collins, a Gainesville Republican, is running for Georgia's newly-created U.S. House seat. Collins' seat will be vacant next year. Collins is also a floor leader who, like Butterworth, worked on the revamp of the HOPE scholarship.


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