A former mayor and a teacher formally announced their intentions to run for public offices Tuesday.
Former Harlem Mayor Scott Dean will seek the county commission seat recently vacated by Lee Anderson, and teacher Lee Benedict plans to challenge state Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, for a Georgia House seat.
Both races will be on the ballot in the July 15 primary.
Dean said he wants to lower the county's millage rate and develop a plan to extend water service into more rural areas of the county.
During his announcement at Harlem City Hall, Dean said that he is ideally qualified to improve relations between county officials and officials from Harlem and Grovetown -- the county's two municipalities.
City and county leaders used to hold quarterly meetings, but such a meeting has not been held in more than a year. Dean said he wants to revive those sessions to give the cities a larger voice in county governance.
Dean said his time as mayor and a Harlem city councilman gives him the needed qualifications to serve on the commission.
"This district needs a commissioner that does not need to be brought up to speed," he said.
During his announcement at the county Justice Center in Evans, Benedict said Harbin's recent legal troubles have cost Columbia County thousands of dollars in state education funding.
Not long after Atlanta police charged Harbin with drunken driving after a May 2007 single-car wreck, Gov. Sonny Perdue cut $120,000 earmarked for a foreign-language program at Stevens Creek Elementary School from the state budget, Benedict said.
Harbin said Tuesday he will appear in court on April 29 to face the DUI charge.
However, Columbia County Republican Party Chairwoman Debbie McCord doubts the charge will hurt Harbin's chances for re-election. She called the charge "a personal issue that needs to be dealt with."
Benedict said that he wants to bring some "common sense" to the state Legislature and make himself available to his constituents.
"I can't promise perfection," he said. "But I can promise to be accessible."
The special-education teacher's last run for a state office was in 2007 when he lost to Bill Jackson in a June special election for the 24th District state Senate seat.
Harbin, who has served in the state Legislature since 1994, last faced opposition in 2000 when he defeated Ron Buel.
Dean resigned as Harlem's mayor after more than five years on April 5 to run for the District 4 county commission seat. Anderson resigned from the office recently to run for the District 117 state House seat currently held by Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem. Fleming intends to oppose U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, for the District 10 congressional seat.
Qualifying for all of these races is April 28 to May 2.
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