October 19, 2016 12:12 PM
As clear as the list of potential candidates for Governor in 2018, the list for Lieutenant Governor is probably longer and more uncertain. Nonetheless, some potential candidates make bigger-than-average blips on the radar screen, and deserve consideration.
The man at the top of everyone’s list has to be State Rep. Allen Peake, a Republican from Macon. In previous years, championing medical marijuana and admitting to creating an account on the adultery-facilitating website Ashley Madison would disqualify any Republican from, well, pretty much anything. But voters appreciate Peake’s sincerity on medical cannabis oil, and that most of the beneficiaries of his legislation are medically fragile children. Additionally, he fessed up to the Ashley Madison debacle with genuine contrition -and no evidence has emerged that he ever did anything more than think about extramarital activities. In the coming era of post-Trump politics, Peake looks like a superhero, has great statewide name ID, and would be hard to catch in a primary.
Peake, though, would have to cross to the “other chamber,” the State Senate, to be Lt. Gov, a challenge not faced by the guy everyone thinks is going to run for that office, State Sen. David Shafer. Shafer has experience, money, access to donors, membership on several powerful committees and a great deal of clout as President pro tem of the Senate. In fact those are the only things that might prevent Shafer from running –why risk anything for an office that’s only a half-step up from where he is now?
Current Secretary of State Brian Kemp, all but out of the running for Governor, might be able to make a credible case to Georgia voters that he’d be a good Lite Governor. Such a move would allow him to put a little daylight between himself and his record as SOS, and it’s nearly impossible to get a reputation as an incompetent Lieutenant Governor. An office that can’t be screwed up would be ideal for Kemp –but he’d still have to get past some enemies he’s made in the Senate.
State Senator Butch Miller, a Gainesville Republican, should not be overlooked as a potential candidate, for no other reason than the $340,000 campaign warchest he has laid by. Another good reason is his network of political allies in Gainesville (the ones not named “Cagle”) and a very powerful ally who lives on West Paces Ferry. Insiders say that if Miller wants this office, all he has to do is run.
Another Senator with a terrific opportunity is Burt Jones from Jackson Georgia. Money? Not much at the moment. Name ID? Nope. A network of powerful friends? More than a few, but not as many as some. No, Jones’ secret could be his membership on the UGA football team that beat Florida State in the 2003 Sugar Bowl. He’s reportedly looking, and everybody loves a winner.
Soon-to-be-former head of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, Jim Butterworth has had an interesting political career. After being appointed Adjutant General of Georgia in 2011, (and surviving a couple of controversies) Butterworth was named head of Georgia’s Emergency Management Agency –a tough spot from which to launch a run for statewide office, since it’s appointed and the only publicity you get is literally disastrous. Butterworth says he’s excited about returning to Delta Airlines as a pilot, where he will no doubt enjoy more success than he would on a statewide campaign for second in command of Georgia government.
A dark horse possibility for LG might also be Tim Bearden, who had been appointed as head of Georgia’s Public Safety Training Center in 2011 and was looking for way back into politics. Of course, that was before losing a confusing primary earlier this year. Whether or not Bearden still has the stomach for electoral politics remains to be seen.
He will no doubt accuse me of saving the best for last, but if ever there was a politician who has more outright fun at his job, it’s state Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga. His entrances to the Rules Committee hearings, which become more important the longer the legislative session goes, are cheesy and legendary and come with their own theme music. He’s been known to tweak activists by denying them entry to meeting rooms. It’s said that Sen. Mullis has never met a lunch he didn’t like. Chairing the Rules Committee is one of the most powerful positions in the Senate –but one that’s also largely out of the public eye. Mullis’ decision will largely depend on whether he prefers fame or power.