Columbia County Chief Magistrate Judge Bobby Christine announced Friday that he will not seek re-election.
The decision, Christine said, is based on information that he’ll likely be activated and deployed through the Georgia Army National Guard in 2012.
“I can’t be on the ballot if I’m on active duty,” Christine said. “As long as I am in the military, this is a potential.”
Christine, a National Guard lieutenant colonel, is a Judge Advocate General officer. He was activated and deployed to Iraq for 14 months in 2003 and 2004.
Christine said though he’s met his obligations to the military and can retire at any time, he won’t.
“I’m not going to take my uniform off while we’re at war,” Christine said. “I’m not going to walk away from the military while we still have troops in harm’s way.”
Though the potential deployment isn’t yet certain, Christine said he doesn’t want to wait any closer to the May qualifying to see if the orders will be confirmed.
“I’ve wrestled with this the last couple of months, thinking about it,” Christine said. “The last thing I want to do is dissuade good folks who might offer (to run) had they known early enough.”
Christine served four years as associate magistrate before being appointed to fill the nearly four remaining years of former Chief Magistrate J. Wade Padgett’s term in February 2009. That term ends Dec. 31, 2012.
“It has been a blessing and such an honor to have been called forth to finish Judge Padgett’s term,” Christine said. “To be a judge for the people of Columbia County in that position, to have been Chief Magistrate, has been a blessing and an honor; one of the highest honors of my life.
“Ultimately, it is not my seat. It is the people’s seat. Knowing this information, I probably need to step aside and let somebody else run.”
If Christine were to qualify in May without opposition, then be mobilized, he’d be forced to pull out of the race due to U.S. Army regulations.
If Christine is activated and/or deployed during a term, there are procedures to keep the court running in his absence. But he simply can’t be activated and on a ballot.
Christine said he might regret the decision not to run if he’s not deployed before the November election. But he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of running for the Magistrate or another office in the future. “What gives me peace is it has been an honor to have served like this,” Christine said. “I’m going to complete this term. Then, you know, I’m a young man.”