Originally created 04/23/98

Speaker pro tem to seek 16th term



In Jack Connell's office supply store on 10th Street, surrounded by modular shelves, spare tables and high-tech, plastic chairs with ergonomically designed cushions, there's a high-backed, wood-trimmed, burgundy leather chair.

Sometimes the classics endure.

And the store made an ironic, if appropriate, backdrop as Mr. Connell, Speaker Pro Tem of Georgia's House of Representatives, brought that message to Augusta voters.

Vote for me, again, he said.

Mr. Connell, who will have represented House District 115 for 30 years when his current term ends, announced Wednesday that he would run a 16th time. The 78-year-old Democrat brought a doctor's note -- a clean bill of health.

"I'm healthy, I work hard at business and my job in the Legislature, at recreation and time with my family, and I see no reason I can't carry that over into the campaign," he said of questions about health concerns that have dogged him since a fainting spell during the last session.

A more important issue, Mr. Connell said, is the good he can do with his seniority. His re-election would keep District 115 representation on committees such as Appropriations and the University of Georgia System.

"You need seniority and experience in some areas," he said. "It's like a company's board of directors -- you wouldn't want to change them too often."

At least two people are considering challenging Mr. Connell.

L.A. Williams, 49, a firefighter who ran unsuccessfully for Augusta Commission in November, said he has talked to Mr. Connell about running. Businessman Brad Owens, 26, has also been considering a run for the Richmond County Board of Education.

Both men will probably make their decisions before qualifying begins on Monday. Both said they would run as Republicans in the July 21 primary. The general election is Nov. 3.

"I just think it's time for a change," said Mr. Williams. "It's a very heavily Republican district."

Staff Writer Tom Corwin contributed to this article.