0

Lunsford backs out of State Senate campaign

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

When the candidate qualifying period came to an end on Friday, a familiar name was nowhere to be found on the list of Republicans seeking office.

Despite having announced he would run for a State Senate seat, State Rep. John Lunsford (R-McDonough) wasn't on the list of those who qualified for the post. Nor was he on the list of those who qualified for his House seat.

In a statement released Saturday, he said he would not be seeking either post.

"I need to take a little break ... That doesn't mean I'm gone for good. It's been an honor and a privilege, but I have some little guys at home that need a dad more than they need a politician," the 10-year veteran lawmaker said in an interview Monday.

"My desk sits about 30 feet from where Speaker David Ralston stands, and he had a hand-delivered letter sent to me asking me to stay..." Lunsford said. "My response was 'No,' I'm just tired."

Lunsford, 52, who has held a seat in the House since January 2000, announced on April 28 that he was seeking the State Senate District 17 seat being vacated by Republican John Douglas, who is seeking election to the Public Service Commission. Lunsford's House district includes portions of Henry, Butts and Newton counties.

"I didn't discuss with the party I was leaving," Lunsford said. "Five minutes to 12 [noon, the qualifying deadline], I asked for the refund of my qualifying fee and I went home."

Lunsford is president of Henry County Janitorial Supply, LLC, and is a real estate appraiser. He and his wife, Tina, have seven children, four of whom are 14 or younger.

In the statement released Saturday, Lunsford said, "I have loved my 10 years in the General Assembly, and I am proud of our many accomplishments. However, at the end of a long and difficult session, I have decided that it is time for me to re-focus on my business, and spend more time helping my wife raise our four young children."

During his tenure, Lunsford served on the Health and Human Services Committee, and the politically powerful Rules and Appropriations committees. He leaves as chairman of the House Special Committee on Small Business Development and Job Creation.

"It's going to be a loss for Henry County," said State Rep. Steve Davis (R-McDonough), chairman of the Henry County Legislative Delegation. "Whoever replaces him has got some big shoes to fill.

"I'm happy for him, but I'm sad," Davis added. "It's a stressful job. Doing this for 10 years weighs on your family. He's done his tour of duty."

Lunsford said his commitments have become progressively more time-consuming.

"Serving in public office, when you move up in seniority, you also move up in obligation," he said. "I was going to be working on 100 campaigns, then it would have been right back into another session. There wouldn't have been any break for me."

In his statement on Saturday, Lunsford said, "While I am not ruling out any political run in the future, for now, the right thing for me, and my family, is to step aside and allow someone else to carry the torch."

Four Republicans and one Democrat are vying to replace Lunsford in the House.

In the July Republican primary are Ron Moon, Tom R. Nicholson, Lee M. Spahos, and Andrew "Andy" J. Welch, III.

Democrat Rudy Cox will face the winner in November.

"Mr. Lunsford would be a formidable opponent in any campaign race. He is a well-seasoned politician, so I do think that his not being in the race will be easier than if he had been in the race," said Welch.

"I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors," said Spahos. "Like he said, it's time for someone else to step up and build on the successes he has had at the state level. I don't think John being out of the race will affect whether it goes to a Democrat or a Republican."

Moon, Nicholson and Cox could not be reached for comment on Monday.