The Catoosa County Republican Party got another look Monday night at the growing field of Republicans who have thrown their hats into the ring for Georgia's 14th Congressional District.
At the local GOP meeting, Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton, and Rome-based neurosurgeon John Cowan spoke to local leaders and other candidates for local races about their campaigns.
Aside from practicing medicine, Cowan is the owner and CEO of Rome-based Cortex Toys. Cowan said as a political newcomer, it took him a long time to decide to run. Ultimately, he felt like he couldn't stand on the sidelines any longer.
Cowan said that it would be "a sad day in America" if ordinary citizens like him just stayed home to "enjoy the fruits of our freedom" and not step up and run for something they believe in.
Cowan said the reason why America has the problems it does is because "people like me don't run."
He said having career politicians in office is not the best way to make change and "protect the Republic."
As a legislator in Washington, Cowan said he would have his constituents' interests at the forefront. He also said his experience competing as a high school athlete in northwest Georgia will help him in the race.
"I know how fierce that competition is," he said. "I know the flooring industry. I know the health care industry. All of these things are so important in our district and part of my DNA. And that's why I feel at this moment in my life that I'm the right person to serve you in Congress."
Cooke now serves in the state's House of Representatives in District 18. He is the associate athletic director at Shorter University in Rome, as well as a farmer and small-business owner.
Rep. Steve Tarvin, R-Chickamauga, was at Monday's meeting and introduced Cooke. Tarvin said he got emotional when Cooke told him he was going to run for the Congressional seat.
Cooke was first elected to office in 2010.
Cooke said he will use his experience as a longtime lawmaker to make change on the national level on behalf of northwest Georgia. He said his road to making allies in the House has not always been easy.
"I learned very quickly that just because you're a Republican, and just because you're in a majority, doesn't mean that your policies in Atlanta line up with what we say we believe here," Cooke said.
Cooke said that a lot of the candidates for the 14th District will say similar things and believe in the same principles. He said he gives voters and residents a track record that other candidates can't.
"We're all going to say these things, and I believe everybody believes what they're saying," he said. "But what I provide is an option of somebody who can tell you what I believe, and then you can go verify every single thing that I'm telling."
Cooke said his voting record speaks for itself.
Monday was the second time this year Catoosa County Republicans hosted Congressional hopefuls. Last month, Marjorie Greene and Clayton Fuller spoke to local leaders.
The other candidate who has announced is Ben Bullock of Gwinnett County, a small business owner and U.S. Air Force veteran.
Congressman Tom Graves, the senior-most Republican in Georgia's House delegation, said recently he will not seek re-election next year, triggering an unexpected battle to represent the deeply conservative district.
The 14th district includes Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Polk, Walker, Whitfield and parts of Pickens County.
Contact Patrick Filbin at email@example.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.