Georgia 2018: Hunter Hill resigns Senate seat to further gov bid

Republican Hunter Hill is running for governor. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Republican Hunter Hill said Tuesday he will resign his state Senate seat so he can concentrate on his campaign for governor, becoming the second gubernatorial candidate to step down from a statehouse post this month.

Hill, an entrepreneur first elected to the Senate in 2012, notified Gov. Nathan Deal of his resignation this week. The timing means that a special election to represent the seat, which spans parts of Atlanta and east Cobb County, will likely be held in November.

He cast his decision as a chance to allow his successor to “devote his or her full attention to their priorities next session” while he’s focused on running for Georgia’s top office. At least five candidates have already filed paperwork to compete for his seat.

“Running for governor is a serious undertaking, and one that deserves each candidate’s full commitment. Unfortunately, two of my opponents have a history of holding one office while pursuing another,” he said. “Georgians don’t want candidates for governor putting their political careers ahead of the future of our state.”

It was a jab at two other leading Republican candidates in the contest, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who have both signaled they will not step down. A fourth GOP contender, state Sen. Michael Williams, said he will also remain in office.

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The legislative session gives candidates for higher office a powerful pulpit to command attention and push their campaign priorities by sponsoring base-pleasing legislation and plenty of speeches before a legion of roaming TV cameras.

But it also has significant drawbacks. State legislators and constitutional officers can’t raise campaign money during the 40-day legislative session, which spans from January through March, and every day at the Capitol means one less on the campaign trail.

And the same election-year votes designed to rev up each party’s base could also risk alienating the broader, and more moderate, electorate in November.

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Hill is the second candidate for governor to step down. State Rep. Stacey Abrams, once the leader of the House Democratic caucus, submitted her resignation last week. It’s not yet known whether her top Democratic rival, state Rep. Stacey Evans, will resign.

Republican state Rep. Geoff Duncan, one of three GOP office-holders running for lieutenant governor, also said this week he would resign his seat.

Hill’s seat is a juicy target for Democrats. Democrat Hillary Clinton carried the affluent district in November and Hill barely held onto it, narrowly staving off Democratic challenger Jaha Howard.

Howard, a pediatric dentist, is making a comeback bid next year. He faces trial lawyer Jen Jordan and political newcomer Nigel Sims in the Democratic primary. At least three Republicans are in the hunt: Former Georgia GOP minority engagement guru Leo Smith and attorneys Matt Bentley and Leah Aldridge.

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