Whitehead makes bid for seat

State Sen. Jim Whitehead announced Monday that he will resign to run for the congressional seat left vacant by the death of Charlie Norwood. "I can't be Charlie Norwood, but I think I can be Jim Whitehead. I think I can make you proud," said Mr. Whitehead, a Republican from Evans.

 

Mr. Norwood, who represented Georgia's 10th Congressional District, died Feb. 13, and Gov. Sonny Perdue will call for a special election to fill the seat.

State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, also mentioned as a potential candidate, said he will not run and will endorse Mr. Whitehead.

"No one can fill Charlie Norwood's shoes, but someone has got to go to Washington and represent and vote for us, and I just know he's the right person for that," said Mr. Fleming, who served with Mr. Whitehead on the Columbia County Commission.

Mr. Whitehead, a county commissioner from 1995 to 2002, was chairman of the commission for more than two years and was elected in 2004 to the 24th Senate District, which includes Columbia, Lincoln, McDuffie, Wilkes and parts of Elbert and Warren counties.

"I think I have proven that I know how to represent people," Mr. Whitehead said at a news conference at the Columbia County Government Center in Evans. "I can't do anything without people, and I do believe that if I ask somebody to vote for me I owe them the right to talk to me about their concerns and what I can do to represent them."

Mr. Whitehead said he would like to represent the 10th District much as Mr. Norwood did: with conservative leadership focused on providing quality education, curbing illegal immigration and eliminating wasteful government spending.

Democrat Terry Holley, who lost to Mr. Norwood in November, said he plans to run for the seat again. The former schoolteacher was re-elected in January as the state Democratic Party's 10th Congressional District chairman.

Two area officials have announced interest in filling Mr. Whitehead's state Senate seat. Columbia County Associate Magistrate Judge and private attorney Bobby Christine and former state Rep. Bill Jackson, also a member of the state Board of Corrections, have said they are considering running.

Columbia County political observers had been worried that with both Mr. Whitehead and Mr. Fleming in the race for Mr. Norwood's seat, the county's vote would be split, potentially helping other candidates in the race - including state Sen. Ralph Hudgens, R-Comer, who previously announced his intention to run. Another potential candidate said Monday that he's interested in the race. Former NFL player and Athens native Willie Green said he's weighing support from Republican leaders in the district.

Mr. Green, who attended Clarke Central High School, joined the Detroit Lions in 1990 as an eighth-round draft pick. He played for Tampa Bay, Carolina and Denver before leaving professional football in the late 1990s and opening a chain of payday lending stores.

The political newcomer now works for Community Financial Services of America, a lobby that supports regulated but legal payday loans, a lending practice that's banned in Georgia.

Mr. Green has lived in Atlanta but recently returned to Athens, he said.

He said he would like to run as a Republican in the nonpartisan race but would label himself independent if he doesn't get support of party leaders.

Morris News Service contributed to this article.

Reach Valerie Rowell at (706) 868-1222, ext. 110, or valerie.rowell@augustachronicle.com.