It was labeled the area’s “worst-kept political secret” last week when 10th District U.S. Rep. Paul Broun announced that he plans to run in 2014 for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Saxby Chambliss.
Broun’s wife had let the cat out of the bag a week earlier, so his announcement from an Atlanta hotel was anticlimactic. But it was notable in that he was the first of what are expected to be many to run for the senate seat.
Some might not recall that Broun also was one of the first, if not the first, person to declare his intention to run for his current congressional seat after the death of Charlie Norwood.
In fact, there was no small amount of irritation at Broun for what some people felt like was his campaigning for the seat while Norwood was on his deathbed. That perception of opportunistic disrespect never did sit well with Norwood supporters.
In any event, when Norwood died in 2007 – six years ago this Wednesday, Feb. 13, as a matter of fact – it set off a feeding frenzy.
A total of 10 people wound up in that race. In addition to Broun there was early hometown favorite Jim Whitehead, who stepped down from a secure state Senate seat to run (and in retrospect probably wishes he hadn’t). The other local in the race was Evans lawyer Evita Paschall, who recently failed in an ill-conceived bid for district attorney.
The other seven candidates were an eclectic collection, to say the least.
There was Denise Freeman, who has unsuccessfully sought the seat three times. I compared her delivery on the stump to that of a televangelist.
Then there was Mark Meyers, who provided one of the more hilarious episodes at a Grovetown forum when, as he began speaking, two of his supporters trotted to the front of the room and held aloft a portrait of Ronald Reagan.
Also promoting the Reagan mantel, but without the sideshow, was a young black Republican, Erik Underwood. I’d love to see him run again.
The rest of the pack was rounded out with Democrat James Marlow, Libertarian Jim Sendelbach, Republican Nate Pulliam, and Bill Greene, who didn’t live in the district.
Whitehead took a whopping 43.5 percent of the vote in the 10-candidate field. Broun squeaked into second place, beating Marlow by just 198 votes (four-tenths of a percent).
That put Broun into the runoff. Everyone thought the race was in the bag for Whitehead after his huge total in the election. His supporters were so confident, they didn’t even return for the runoff – and Broun won by fewer than 400 votes.
The district is far different now, and occupies just the western and northern edge of Columbia County. The rest of the county was redrawn into the 13th District by and for Lee Anderson who, like Whitehead, probably wishes he’d just stayed in the Legislature.
All that means it’s likely the next occupant, from among what could be a horde of challengers, probably still won’t be from Columbia County.
Just one more reason to say it again: I sure do miss Charlie Norwood.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-868-1222, ext. 106. Follow at www.twitter.com/