Garvin qualified for Senate seat, but now wants out

Leon Garvin, the former sheriff's lieutenant who qualified Friday to run as a Democrat for Georgia Senate District 23, has attempted to withdraw from the race.

However, Garvin's letter, arriving at the Georgia Secretary of State's office Wednesday, did not include the necessary signature and seal of a notary public, according to office spokesman Matt Carrothers. So it must be resubmitted before Garvin can officially disqualify himself.

Garvin surprised many when he turned up in Atlanta on Friday and became the only Democratic qualifier for Senate District 23. Moments earlier, District 23 Sen. J.B. Powell had withdrawn his candidacy for the post.

By the noon deadline, Powell qualified instead as the only Democratic candidate seeking the statewide office of agriculture commissioner.

Garvin did not return several phone calls seeking comment.

Lowell Greenbaum, the chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party, said the local party has tried to distance itself from Garvin, and had no idea he planned to qualify.

"We were not approached by Leon Garvin; he never attended our meetings. As far as we know, he was a Republican, according to his voting record," he said.

The party also wasn't consulted about finding a replacement for Powell, Greenbaum said.

Garvin's address, 316 Dogwood Drive, occupies a narrow finger of District 22, bordered by District 23 as it stretches along Mike Padgett Highway in south Augusta.

If his withdrawal does become final, Georgia Democrats say they'll supply a replacement candidate within 24 hours, as the law allows, according to state party spokesman Eric Gray.

But Carrothers said he was unaware of a provision for a party replacing a candidate after the qualifying period has closed.

Gray said even if getting their designated replacement on the ballot faces challenges from the secretary of state's office, the state party thinks the replacement is up for the task.

"Chuck Pardue," Gray said. "He's a well-known guy, a conservative Democrat, a really good campaigner."

Pardue, who lives in Blythe, has a Martinez law practice and operates a biodiesel plant in Warrenville, S.C., said he hadn't considered a run for the seat this year because he believed Powell would run again.

Contacted by state party officials over the weekend, however, Pardue said he was happy to oblige.

If Garvin does not withdraw or Pardue is prevented from replacing him on the July 20 primary ballot, Pardue said he'll begin collecting the minimum of 800 signatures he needs to run as an independent.

Pardue, 60, was quick to state his support for Georgia Power's planned expansion of its nuclear facilities at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro.

"We have to do everything we can do to increase our domestic energy supply, preferably with clean, renewable energy," he said.

If he qualifies as a candidate, Pardue's opponent in November will be attorney and former Waynesboro mayor Jesse Stone, who qualified Friday as a Republican.

Pardue said he had a "difference of opinion" with Powell over the former county commissioner's attempt to prohibit governments from requiring service providers to use landfill-generated methane in their vehicles.

The legislation stands in opposition to the Augusta Commission's recent proposal to generate compressed natural gas from methane at its Blythe landfill.

The 23rd district covers Burke, Screven, Jenkins, Jefferson, Washington and portions of Wilkinson, Emanuel and Richmond counties.

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