ATLANTA - Incumbent lawmakers and statewide officials drew challengers, a few unexpectedly, as candidates for everything from state House member to governor trekked to the Capitol on Monday to file for office.
The annual ritual of qualifying began with few surprises as many of the familiar names turned out to toss their hats into the ring. In one of the few truly surprising events of the day, one member of the House leadership was expected to step aside: Rep. Sue Burmeister, R-Augusta, who is the vice chairwoman of the powerful House Rules Committee, is expected to announce today she will not seek re-election to the Georgia House, according to various sources.
Mrs. Burmeister is said to have decided against seeking another term because of family concerns, and former District 3 Augusta Commission member Barbara Sims is expected to qualify for the seat.
"Yes, I will run if she does not run," Mrs. Sims said Monday.
Mrs. Burmeister was elected in 2000 to the District 119 seat in the state Legislature, where she now serves as Majority Caucus secretary.
Mrs. Sims was elected to the Augusta Commission to fill the unexpired term of Commissioner Stephen Shepard in 2004 and later won the seat outright but announced last year she would not seek re-election.
Telephone calls to Mrs. Burmeister were not returned Monday. Her aide, Richmond County Republican Party Chairman Dave Barbee, said Mrs. Burmeister and Mrs. Sims were expected to hold separate news conferences today.
Statewide, Republicans predicted they would hold onto gains made since Sonny Perdue shocked Gov. Roy Barnes in 2002.
In Atlanta, Republicans began the day ahead, with three House members already announcing they would jump to the GOP from the Democrats. Party leaders said they expected to pick up a few more seats in the November elections, perhaps moving to 105 or more seats in the 180-member chamber, up from the 100 they held in this year's session.
"We're confident we'll build our numbers in the House," said House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, who qualified Monday morning.
Mr. Keen's Democratic counterpart, Rep. DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, said his party would unseat those who had changed parties, however. Even though many of the voters in those districts voted for President Bush, Mr. Porter said, the areas remain Democratic.
"They'll be replaced by Democrats because we'll run on core Democratic issues," Mr. Porter said.
Among the incumbents to draw a challenger was Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, the upper chamber's top-ranking Republican. Former Sen. Mell Traylor, a Democrat from Talahi Island, pledged a bipartisan approach as he sought to oust Mr. Johnson from a GOP-friendly district.
"I never voted against a bill because it was Republican," Mr. Traylor said. "I never voted for a bill just because it was Democratic."
Mr. Johnson, who has already announced he will run for re-election, was expected to qualify later in the week.
The Augusta area was the site of another clash between a first-term incumbent and a former legislator. Sen. J.B. Powell, D-Blythe, will face former Rep. George DeLoach, R-Waynesboro.
"I don't take any election lightly," Mr. Powell said. "I run just as I run every time: I just run hard."
Staff writer Sylvia Cooper contributed to this article.
Reach Brandon Larrabee at (404) 681-1701 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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