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Tom Dooley

Tom Dooley made his first-ever bid for office in 2010 when he failed to unseat incumbent Georgia state Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold, in the Republican primary.

"I got 39 percent of the vote, and I was an unknown," Dooley said. "It was a decent showing for someone who was unknown."

On Thursday, Dooley aimed his sights even higher in the Georgia General Assembly, announcing he will challenge Sen. Jeff Mullis in the Republican primary next summer. Mullis, of Chickamauga, has held office since 2000. He has a wide lead in fundraising and this year was appointed to head the Rules Committee - one of the Senate's most powerful assignments.

"I don't think any incumbent should run unopposed," Dooley said. "I wouldn't have got in the race if I didn't think I could beat him - but that's up to the voters. My job in running for office is to bring out the issues that we should be talking about."

Dooley hopes to raise awareness about Agenda 21, a 1992 United Nations document that his campaign website states "was created to take inventory and control of all world resources, even people."

"It's going to pull everybody basically into the cities," Dooley said. "And that's not where we need to be."

Regionalism, sustainable development, sustainable transportation and sustainable energy are some of the tenets of Agenda 21 that Mullis seems to support, according to Dooley's website.

"I don't know if he's tied in with Agenda 21 or if he doesn't realize he's doing the tenets of Agenda 21," Dooley said. "He seems like a nice man, a good man."

Mullis couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

Nathan Smith, first vice chairman of the 14th Congressional District Republican Party in Northwest Georgia, said Dooley "does have a tough race ahead of him. Especially when he's running against the Senate Rules chairman who can raise thousands of dollars."

Smith added, "Personally, I think Jeff has done a good job representing his constituents."

Dooley, 53, and his wife, Marquita, have been married for 31 years and have four children and eight grandchildren.

The couple live in Chickamauga and jointly run Southern Fire and Safety Inc., a Ringgold business that sells and services fire extinguishers. Dooley founded it in 1994 and its annual sales peaked at $200,000 before he nearly lost the business in the financial downturn, he said.

"We lost almost 50 percent of our business when the economy turned bad, and I ended up laying off my own son," Dooley said. "We ended up going bankrupt [in 2011]. The only thing we had left was a van and our customers. We rebuilt from that. Living in this great country of ours and [with] God's help, we're coming back stronger and a whole lot wiser."

Dooley rented Lee and Gordon's Mills in Chickamauga to kick off his campaign Thursday night.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or 423-757-6651.