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Staff file photo by Erin O. Smith / Then-candidate Colton Moore talks about his ideas about infrastructure Wednesday, May 16, 2018, during a forum at the Rossville Public Library in Rossville, Ga. The event was hosted by the Wilson Road Neighborhood Group.

Georgia's District 1 Rep. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, told the Times Free Press Monday that he is strongly considering running for Georgia's 14th Congressional House seat in 2020.

Congressman Tom Graves of Ranger, the senior-most Republican in Georgia's House delegation, said earlier this month he will not stand for re-election next year, triggering an unexpected battle to represent the deeply conservative district.

In a letter to constituents, Graves said he decided against another term because he was "entering a new season in life."

"An exciting season. So, the time has come for me to pass the baton. Now it's my turn to cheer, support and sacrifice for those who have done the same for me over the last two decades," he wrote. The 14th Congressional District covers Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, parts of Pickens, Polk, Walker and Whitfield counties.

Moore said what the 14th District deserves is a constitutional conservative who would work hard for what voters want and represent residents of southern Appalachia.

 

The 14th congressional district

Moore added his name to a growing list of possible candidates in Northwest Georgia for Graves' seat.

Those include state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, Reps. Katie Dempsey and Eddie Lumsden of Floyd County, and Alpharetta businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Mullis represents the 53rd Senate District, which includes Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties and portions of Chattooga County. He was first elected to the Senate in 2000 and was appointed chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee in January 2013.

He could not be reached for comment Monday.

Moore said when he noticed which names came up as possible replacements for Graves, he noticed none of them were true constitutional conservatives.

"That's why I'm entering the fray," Moore said. "Everyone is shuffling for position across the district, and while I would love to return for District 1, there is a battle for the soul of our nation and we have to send someone there who has constitutional principles."

Moore said he has reached out to the Freedom Caucus and the Club for Growth, which acts as the financial arm for the caucus, in Washington, D.C., as he mulls his decision.

Carried by his hometown, the then-24-year-old Moore joined the Georgia Legislature after he beat incumbent state Rep. John Deffenbaugh, R-Lookout Mountain, 2,184 votes to 1,858 in the state House District 1 Republican Primary in May 2018.

Moore, an auctioneer, was born and raised on Lookout Mountain with a large extended family. He doubled Deffenbaugh's votes in his home county, 1,436-721. Deffenbaugh beat him in Walker County, but not by enough: 1,137-748.

Moore made a name for himself as a young up-and-comer hungry to make changes in the Legislature, and was one of a handful of lawmakers who called for House Speaker David Ralston's resignation after allegations that he continually used his work as a lawmaker to push back trial dates, sometimes in cases involving allegations of violent crimes.

 

Graves called 'one of a kind'

Graves made his surprising announcement the day after Gov. Brian Kemp appointed financial executive Kelly Loeffler for an open Senate seat, triggering speculation that he may challenge her.

A real estate investor who grew up outside of Cartersville, Georgia, Graves was elected to the Georgia House at age 32, but quickly fell out of line with powerful Republican leaders.

He created the 216 Policy Group of independent conservatives that often infuriated House Speaker Glenn Richardson and his top allies, and then eventually aligned himself with the then-fledgling tea party movement.

Long seen as a potential statewide candidate, Graves surprised insiders by not submitting his application for the open Senate seat that was filled Wednesday by Loeffler's appointment.

Now, Graves is the second Georgia Republican to announce he won't seek another term in the House after U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall. Woodall narrowly won re-election in his swing district in 2018.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who announced in August that he was stepping down this year because of Parkinson's disease, thanked Graves for his service to the state.

"He is one of a kind — a great Georgian, a great American and a great representative of our state," Isakson said in a statement. "I've been proud to stand with him to fight for Georgia, and I'm proud to call him my friend."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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