It looks as though there will be an actual race for the 24th District state Senate seat.
When Jim Whitehead announced that he was going to run for the 10th District U.S. Congress seat formerly held by Charlie Norwood, that meant Whitehead would be vacating his state Senate post.
Former state Rep. Bill Jackson immediately began letting it be known that he was interested in running. Associate Magistrate Bobby Christine then decided not to run, and apparently former County Commission chairman Pat Farr also won't run against Jackson.
But Jackson won't step in without a challenge. Last week, Brett McGuire, who managed Whitehead's state Senate campaign in 2004 and 2006 and was set to go to Washington with him if elected, said he is planning to hold a press conference to instead announce he wants to succeed Whitehead in the state Senate.
Then, Tuesday morning, Evans resident and New York native Lee Benedict Jr., a learning specialist at Butler High School, faxed an announcement of his intention to seek the seat.
If Jackson is the presumptive front-runner, McGuire is the close challenger. The retired plant manager of Augusta's Dixie Cup plant helped put together a heavy-hitter campaign team for Whitehead, and with them in place, McGuire is able to take his own path toward elected office.
McGuire has a history of charting his own course. If not for McGuire, Columbia County's Chamber of Commerce would still be a second-banana affiliate of Augusta's chamber.
First, McGuire did the legwork to incorporate the Columbia County Chamber nearly four years ago. Now, following the recent resignation of executive director Gordon Renshaw, McGuire is back running the chamber as interim director, and has the organization's house in order and ready to hand over to a new director.
That job done, and done again, McGuire wants to follow Whitehead's lead by representing the 24th District in the state Senate.
Though Benedict is an unknown, McGuire has already been working hard. Still, Jackson will be a formidable opponent. With long experience and a vast number of contacts, Jackson will poll strongly in both Republican and Democrat areas. All three candidates are running as Republicans, but the race is officially non-partisan.
One side-effect of the 24th District race: Three candidates will bring out more Columbia County voters, which will help Whitehead in the 10th District congressional race. Win or lose, McGuire will be helping his mentor just by running.
Ready, fire, aim
One purely partisan race will be held Saturday, as Columbia County's Republican Party gathers to stand in a circle and shoot each other.
Just kidding. They'll actually be holding their convention, where the party chairman will be elected. Then they'll shoot each other in the back.
The election is somewhat a formality. The actual votes were largely determined by selection of precinct delegates a month ago; Deborah McCord likely has an edge in the delegate count over current interim party chairman Charles Allen.
Detractors of each see both candidates as too strongly tied to whomever the detractor sees as a negative influence. McCord is criticized for being too close to former chairman Lee Muns; Allen is criticized by the other side as being too close to the county's elected officials.
Neither side has been able yet to solve the party's reputation as a circular firing squad, which has crippled its ability to attract the broad citizen support it should have.
The party faithful on Saturday will decide how candidates in future elections will be chosen: Either with the help of the party, or in spite of it.
And then they'll shoot them in the back, too.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal and newstimesonline.com.
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