Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Incumbents Will Have Few Challengers; Bitterness of Session Won't Be Evident in July 15 Primaries

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Incumbents Will Have Few Challengers; Bitterness of Session Won't Be Evident in July 15 Primaries

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE and DICK PETTYS

ATLANTA - After the heated end of a tumultuous legislative session, rumors of intraparty warfare, especially among divided Republicans, flew around government and political circles.

Would Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle or House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, put up primary challengers against each others' allies to try to gain the upper hand in the battles under the Gold Dome?

Would normally incumbent-friendly business interests, seething at the failure of a transportation-funding measure, attempt to defeat Republicans who opposed the legislation?

But when voters go to the polls July 15, few of them will find legislative incumbents facing a credible primary opponent. Many of those lawmakers will also sail through November without having to break a sweat.

Even with the bitterness of the session, the lack of primary challenges isn't unexpected, said Charles Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia.

"That's usually what happens is, you don't find a whole lot of people taking on the incumbents within their own party," he said. "And, indeed, this year it doesn't look like we have a lot of people taking on incumbents of the other party."

Strategists on both sides of the aisle spent the days leading up to and during candidate qualifying in late April and early May trying to play down expectations of aggressive efforts on either side. Democrats said they were simply trying to strengthen their hand before the governor's office goes up for grabs in 2010, while Republicans said they were happy to consolidate the majorities they won four years ago in the House and six years ago in the Senate.

"Our recruiting efforts this year were more strategic," said House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, after candidates had signed up. "We wanted to look at certain areas that we thought we could compete in, and we filled every one of those."

A lagging economy also made businessmen and self-employed lawyers and the like hesitant to leave their companies to run for office and then spend the first three months of the year in Atlanta, party officials said. …

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