ATLANTA -- Sparking a whirlwind of activity, qualifying began Monday for the Georgia Senate Distinct 11 seat left empty by the sudden resignation last week of veteran south Georgia Sen. John Bulloch.
So far Mike Keown, 58, of Coolidge, and Brad Hughes, 35, of Blakely, both Republicans, have officially qualified to vie for Bulloch's seat. However Dean Burke, a Bainbridge physician, was expected to also qualify. The race is a sprint because qualifying ends at noon on Wednesday and the special election is set for Jan. 8.
A farmer by trade, Bulloch was sworn in to the state senate in 2003 to represent District 11. He currently is the chairman of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, vice chair of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee, a member of the Appropriations and Rules committees, and an ex-officio member of the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee.
District 11 covers Colquitt, Decatur, Early, Grady, Miller, Seminole and portions of Mitchell and Thomas counties.
"It has been an honor to serve District 11 as a Georgia state senator since 2003," Bulloch said in a statement released last week. "I'd like to thank all of my constituents, colleagues and staff for their support during my years at the Gold Dome. However, no one deserves more appreciation and recognition than my wife and family. Their unconditional love and encouragement was a constant reminder of the reason why I ran for this office -- because I wanted to create a better and brighter future for this state."
Keown is the former mayor of Coolidge and served in the Georgia House from 2005 to 2010 before resigning to run against Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Albany, in the 2010 U.S. House Georgia District 2 race. That contest was the closest any Republican had ever come to unseating the 20-year congressional veteran.
"John is a good friend and to be running for the seat that was held by him is an honor. My priority will be to maintain the commitment he had to serve the people of South Georgia and to always do what was right," Keown said in a statement. "The six years I spent in the Georgia House have provided me with the knowledge and relationships to continue the tradition of effective representation from day one."
Hughes also had a run against Bishop in 2006. He most recently served on the staff of Georgia Secretary of state Brian Kemp.
"After much encouragement and prayerful consideration, I am announcing my candidacy for the 11th Senate District of Georgia. I am running because our South Georgia families and farmers need a bold voice for our conservative values, for limited government, and for our way of life in the Senate," Hughes said in a statement.
Burke, and obstetrician and gynecologist, is currently serving his second term as a member of the Bainbridge City Council, and has maintained a medical practice in the city since 1985.