published Monday, September 5th, 2011

New maps mean more North Georgia candidates

by Andy Johns
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New district lines appear to mean new challengers for U.S. Rep. Tom Graves in his bid for re-election next year.

Chickamauga, Ga., business owner Steve Tarvin and former Paulding County Commission Chairman Jerry Shearin both are eyeing election campaigns.

“It’s going to be an interesting campaign, whether I’m in or not,” Shearin said last week.

Last week, both he and Tarvin, who runs Crystal Springs Print Works in Chickamauga and ran unsuccessfully against Graves last year, were in Rome, Ga., gauging support in the Northwest Georgia district’s new territory.

“I’m 90 percent sure I’m running,” Tarvin said in a phone interview.

Georgia’s new congressional map splits North Georgia into two districts, the 9th and the 14th. The 9th now includes Gainesville and Northeast Georgia, while the 14th encompasses 12 counties from Catoosa, Dade and Walker in North Georgia down to Haralson and Paulding.

Tarvin said he believes the new lines have taken away large numbers of Graves’ supporters in Hall and Forsyth counties, voters who helped Graves sew up wins in last year’s special election and primary. Tarvin sees Floyd, Polk, Haralson and Paulding counties as new territories where an incumbent has no head start.

Graves spokesman John Donnelly declined to discuss the intricacies of the district, saying, “Graves is focused on working hard for Georgians in the current 9th District.”

In an email, Donnelly wrote: “The congressman is excited to meet the communities of the proposed 14th District and share his message of less government and personal freedom.”

During the campaigns and in office, Graves has stressed reducing federal spending and spoken strongly against government intrusion into business.

Tarvin, who in 2010 courted some of the same tea party supporters as Graves, campaigned on the idea of being a businessman, not a politician. Next year, he said, his theme would be understanding the people of the district.

“I think my heart is the heart of the people in this district,” he said. “I’ve had my share of earnings, and I’ve had my share of losings. I know what people are going through.”

Shearin, a former two-term chairman of the Paulding County Commission, said he is “contemplating” a run. He works as a government and community affairs representative for a fiber-optics company based in Rome and served as the Paulding County coordinator for Nathan Deal’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010.

“Right now I’m just talking to folks,” he said. “A campaign is nothing to take lightly.”

He touted his ties to the northwest corner of the state, citing his work with the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission. He’s also married to Kathy Owens Shearin, formerly of Signal Mountain.

Shearin said whoever plans to be on the ballot needs to be busy before the calendar officially flips to an election year.

“I would say if you’re going to run in this, you better be working by Thanksgiving,” he said.

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about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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