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Gen Z conservative firebrand C.J. Pearson among 10 qualifying candidates for open Georgia legislative seats

Five Democrats and five Republicans have qualified for the Feb. 13 special elections to replace outgoing Georgia lawmakers Mike Dugan and Barry Fleming.

Five candidates apiece are running in special elections for a Georgia state Senate seat west of Atlanta and a state House seat near Augusta.

Qualifying closed Wednesday for the Feb. 13 votes to replace Republican Mike Dugan in Senate District 30 and Rep. Barry Fleming in House District 125. Dugan resigned to run for Congress, while Gov. Brian Kemp swore Fleming in as a superior court judge on Wednesday.

Members of all parties will run together in the special elections with no primaries to select nominees. If no one wins a majority on Feb. 13, the top two candidates would advance to a runoff on March 12, the same day as Georgia’s presidential primary.


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Running in the Senate race as Republicans are former state Rep. Tim Bearden of Carrollton, real estate agent Renae Bell of Tallapoosa, contract administrator Amber Nixon of Carrollton and consultant Robert “Bob” Smith. Ashley Kecskes Godwin of Carrollton is running as a Democrat. The district covers all of Haralson County and parts of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties.

Bearden was elected to the state House four times before former Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him as director of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. Bearden is now the government affairs manager for a billboard company. He’s a former police officer who pushed for expansions of gun rights while in the House.

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“My goal is to make sure that this district is set up for a prosperous future,” Bearden told Carrollton radio station WLBB-AM on Tuesday. He said he would seek tougher criminal penalties for trafficking fentanyl and those who injure police officers and firefighters.

Bell is a real estate agent, the wife of Haralson County school Superintendent Jerry Bell, and the former chair of the Greater Haralson Chamber of Commerce. Bell said she seeks to foster limited government, entrepreneurship and self-reliance.

“As a small business owner, the Make America Great Again movement resonated with me. The Trump economy ushered in unheralded prosperity, hope for my grand children’s future, and restored my feeling of safety in my community,” Bell said in a statement.

Republicans running in the House race include conservative commentator C.J. Pearson of Grovetown, Columbia County Commissioner and car wash owner Gary Richardson of Evans, farmer James Steed of Grovetown and software developer John Turpish of Grovetown. The lone Democrat running is cosmetologist Kay Turner of Grovetown. The district covers parts of Columbia and McDuffie counties.

Currently national co-chair of the Republican National Committee Youth Advisory Council, Pearson won notice as a Black middle school student posting videos supporting Republican causes.

Richardson can’t run for reelection as a commissioner because he’s term-limited after eight years.

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