Originally created 07/22/98

Greer wins agriculture primary



ATLANTA -- The owner of a pet-supply business made mincemeat of a sausage maker in Tuesday's GOP primary for Agriculture Commissioner.

Robert Greer of Cumming defeated former state Sen. Hildred Shumake and earned the right to take on Tommy Irvin, a Democrat who has held the office for 30 years.

With 1,217 of 2,751 precincts reporting, Mr. Greer had 106,271 votes, or 82 percent. Mr. Shumake, who now owns an Atlanta sausage business, had 24,051 votes, or 18 percent.

Mr. Greer faces long odds against the 68-year-old Mr. Irvin.

Mr. Irvin has served as agriculture commissioner since he was appointed in 1969 by then-Gov. Lester Maddox. Not surprisingly, no Democrats signed up to oppose him in the primary.

He says neither Republican can compete with his experience.

Mr. Greer, 52, stressed his business experience and said it's past time Mr. Irvin was put out to pasture.

A former Democrat, Mr. Shumake, 42, lost his Senate seat in the 1992 primary after facing two trials on federal extortion charges. Both juries deadlocked, causing a mistrial, and the charges were dropped.

He now runs Shumake Sausage, which sells sausage to some 4,000 grocery stores in 14 states.

Primarily known for overseeing farming in Georgia, the agriculture commissioner also has regulatory powers over gasoline sales, pest control, pet stores, veterinarians, florists and textiles.