U.S. Rep. Tom Graves has a lot of good lobbying years left in him.
The senior Republican in Georgia’s House delegation announced Thursday he’s not going to run for reelection in 2020 and the aftershock is feeling like there might be a fight brewing for the post.
Firstly, there’s no question that House District 14 is deep red. The Grand Old Party isn’t likely in fear of losing that seat — Graves has stayed put since 2010 without any serious contenders.
He was challenged locally by Republican Mickey Tuck in 2016 and again in 2018 by Steve Foster, a Democratic challenger who spent much of the race in the Whitfield County Jail on a DUI conviction. Graves won both of those elections by a large margin.
Some of the contention we’re noticing may be the leftovers of a disagreement between Gov. Brian Kemp and President Donald Trump over who should fill U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat.
Just a day after Gov. Kemp chose to appoint Kelly Loeffler to the Senate seat — against President Trump’s wishes — Graves stepped out on Twitter, dropped the bomb that he’s not running again and then gently stepped back away.
Immediately the two occurrences coalesced in speculation that Graves may run for the Senate in 2020. That may be true, but it’s not what we’re hearing. The rumor is he’s headed to lobby for the hotel industry.
Up to this point, Graves has been a party line candidate — from the Tea Party at its height and then, as he got a bit more power, quietly toward what is now the GOP establishment. Always a staunch Trump supporter, the Ranger Republican began his career in state politics at 32 and then jumped up to the national stage just under 10 years ago.
As much as Graves has been pro-Trump he was also anti-Obama and led many forays against the passage of the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare — and many efforts to repeal the law.
His announcement has been heralded by state Democrats as another example of Georgia shifting from deep red to purple, but for this area it might be a little early for that prognosis.
He’s the second House Republican from Georgia who has said he won’t run again in 2020. U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, who represents the 7th District — primarily Gwinnett County — announced he would retire after a tight race for the seat in 2018.
But let’s be honest, this is really a contest between Republicans and the factions within that party. Even more so, it comes down to a regional contest and who can pull votes from the largest population areas in Northwest Georgia.
The 14th District covers the extreme northwest corner of the state. So we’re talking about Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Whitfield, Murray, Chattooga, Gordon, Floyd, Polk, Haralson, Paulding as well as a little bit of Pickens county.
There used to be a pretty formal pecking order about who the state GOP would let run for what position, but that was before the Tea Party and other party rifts exposed during the election of President Trump.
Now, it’s anybody’s guess.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution floated a few names such as Steve Tarvin (who ran against Graves in his original 2010 bid), our own state Rep. Katie Dempsey, Polk’s representative and House Majority Whip Trey Kelley as well as state Sen. Jeff Mullis from Chickamauga.
We’d like to throw in a couple more local names — but to be clear, nobody has said yet that they’re going to run. Let’s not forget our own state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler and Rep. Eddie Lumsden.
If any of the above named step away from their seats with the idea of moving on up, that will create a ripple effect. It’ll be interesting to see who steps out to run for any open positions and we’ll know pretty soon — the primary is in May.
Like Rep. Graves, now that we’ve dropped those bombs we’ll also step away and move on to some nicer things.
A few thanks
Among those who have recently stepped up to help locally, we’d like to thank a few here.
The Greater Rome Board of Realtors made a $7,105 donation Wednesday to the Ruth and Naomi House, to aid with sheltering some of the most vulnerable women and children in the community.
Thank you to the Rome Little Theatre for organizing the “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and really keeping it in the spirit of the season. Their expanded effort to collect items needed by The Salvation Army, Hospitality House for Women and the Davies Shelters is a blessing.
And thank you to Mannington Mills, Garner & Glover Co., Eagle Equipment and Brasfield & Gorrie for sponsoring Harbor House’s Breakfast with Santa — a fundraiser for the nonprofit that works with and advocates for children who are victims of abuse.
This isn’t the complete list, and if you know a person or business who is really helping others make a difference email our editor John Bailey at JBailey@RN-T.com.
A parting thought
Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson told the Washington Post this about the current state of politics.
“People don’t understand what bipartisan means. Bipartisan is a state of mind and a state of being,” he said this week. “We’ve got too many people describing the problems and not enough people looking for the answers.”