Political Notes: Legislative races drawing interest
by Tom Crawford on 1/18/2010

Reprinted with permission and courtesy of the Georgia Report

Early campaign disclosure reports indicate that some longtime legislative incumbents could be facing tough challenges in their attempts to win another term this year.

Rep. Jill Chambers (R-Atlanta), an election target for several cycles because of the Democratic lean of her DeKalb County district, has attracted serious opposition from Democratic attorney Elena Parent.

Parent had raised just under $80,000 and had $74,208 in the bank as of Dec. 31, compared to $15,559 for Chambers, who angered several of the Republicans in her own caucus by opposing legislation to incorporate Dunwoody as a city.

Another DeKalb House Republican, Rep. Mike Jacobs, is in better financial shape. He had more than $16,000 cash on hand while his Democratic opponent, Sandra Murray, had less than $2,500.

Rep. Mark Butler (R-Carrollton), who had a surprisingly tough primary challenge in 2008, has Republican opposition this time around from former Carrollton mayor Gerald Pilgrim. Pilgrim has already said he will make ethics an issue in the race against Butler, who recently confirmed he had an affair, which has now ended, with a lobbyist for West College College.

Butler reported $14,543 in cash on hand for the upcoming race as of Dec. 31. Pilgrim raised $18,925 and had $8,714 in the bank at the end of the year.

Rep. Don Wix (D-Mableton), a 12-year House veteran, looks like he’ll have a challenge in the Democratic primary from David Wilkerson. Wilkerson raised more than $15,000 and had $12,411 in the bank as of Dec. 31 while Wix had banked $20,263.

Rep. Terry Johnson (D-Marietta), a four-term House member, reported $15,540 cash on hand while his opponent, Republican blogger and activist Jason Shepherd, had just under $4,000.

An interesting race could be brewing in Atlanta’s Senate District 39, represented for the past 12 years by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta).

Fort reported the modest total of only $9,608 cash on hand as of Dec. 31, which is far behind the amount raised by his Democratic primary challenger, Graham Balch, a biology teacher at Grady High School.

Balch raised more than $72,000 in 2009, according to his disclosure report, and still had almost $60,000 in the bank at the close of the year.

Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) is miles ahead of his Republican primary challenger, Cobb deputy sheriff Lynda Coker. Hill reports more than $121,000 in his campaign account while Coker had less than $2,500 cash on hand.

Two state Senate races without incumbents are already shaping up as big-money contests: District 29 in Columbus, where Sen. Seth Harp (R-Midland) is leaving to run for insurance commissioner, and District 56 at the northern end of Fulton County, where Sen. Dan Moody (R-Alpharetta) decided not to run again.

Two Republican candidates from Columbus, Josh McKoon and Ron Mullins, have already raised more than $100,000 each in the District 29 race. Mullins still had $89,544 cash on hand as of Dec. 31 while McKoon had $75,023.

Both McKoon and Mullins have out-raised the man who’s giving up the Senate seat, Harp. Even though Harp is running for statewide office, his contributions total less than $79,000.

The candidates in District 56 include John Albers, who’s raised nearly $160,000; Brandon Beach, a member of the State Transportation Board who has raised about $103,000; and David Belle Isle, whose contributions total just over $50,000. Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) originally planned to run for this seat as well, but has decided to stay in the House.

At some point Sen. David Adelman (D-Decatur) is expected to resign his Senate seat when he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the ambassador to Singapore.

Two candidates who have surfaced for Adelman’s DeKalb County seat are Jason Carter, an attorney who’s the grandson of former president Jimmy Carter, and lawyer Tom Stubbs. Carter so far has raised more than $82,000, while Stubbs reports a campaign war chest of $500.

In Clayton County’s Senate District 44, where incumbent Gail Buckner is leaving to run for secretary of state, state Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood) has raised more than $16,000 compared to less than $400 by former senator Gail Davenport.