Originally created 01/19/00

New senator sworn in to fill vacant seat



ATLANTA -- Georgia's newest state senator already has caught the attention of the governor, who noted her energy and fashion sense.

Gov. Roy Barnes made his observation Tuesday at the swearing-in ceremony for Sen. Regina Thomas of Savannah in the Senate chamber. He noted that as a state representative earlier in her political career, Ms. Thomas wore a different hat each day.

"I want to let you in on a little secret about Regina," Mr. Barnes said. "When we were both in the House, we had a little bet going each day among those of us on the back row on what color hat she would wear."

Ms. Thomas wore a purple hat Tuesday as Mr. Barnes, several senior senators and Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor watched Chief Justice Robert Benham administer the oath of office.

"She doesn't mind getting into a little controversy. And when she tells you she's for you, she's for you," Mr. Barnes said.

The ceremony came one week after Ms. Thomas won a special election to complete the term of former Sen. Diana Harvey Johnson, who resigned Nov. 15 after being sentenced to 41 months in prison for five counts of federal mail fraud. Ms. Johnson's conviction is one of the reason's Mr. Taylor has given for sponsoring an ethics seminar today for Ms. Thomas and all the members of the Senate.

Ms. Thomas defeated former Savannah Councilwoman Dana Braun by fewer than 100 votes and had to await the results of a recount before taking office. The election was technically nonpartisan, but Ms. Thomas served as a Democrat in the House until she gave up her seat two years ago to challenge Ms. Johnson. Ms. Thomas will face a partisan race in November for a full, two-year term.

The General Assembly is in recess this week while committees review bills already filed. Mr. Taylor hasn't assigned Ms. Thomas to a committees yet, but most people who know her predict she won't be idle long.

"She is a very bright and energetic advocate for the people of Savannah," Mr. Taylor said.

"She will bring that bulldog tenacity that we need in the Georgia Senate," added Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker, D-Augusta. "I remember four years ago, you said you would be in the Senate, and here you are."

After taking the oath, Ms. Thomas said she was eager to get to the work she's missed.

"It feels real good," she said. "I am looking so forward to working with this body."

Reach Walter Jones at (404) 589-8424.



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