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Georgia Rep. Ferguson announces he won’t run for reelection, potential candidates to replace him emerge quickly

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by Ross Williams, Georgia Recorder

Georgians will be electing at least one new member of Congress next year –  Republican Congressman Drew Ferguson announced he will not be seeking another term Thursday morning.

In a brief statement, the representative from The Rock said he looks forward to spending more time with family.

“Georgia is truly a special place, and it’s calling us home,” he said. “Julie and I look forward to spending more time with our children and grandchildren while continuing to work to keep Georgia the best state in America to live and do business.”

A dentist by profession, Ferguson served as mayor of his hometown of West Point before launching his congressional campaign in 2016 after the retirement of former Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. Ferguson squeaked out a win in the crowded Republican primary in the conservative west Georgia district and has gone on to win reelection by comfortable margins since he was sworn in the following year.

Ferguson earned attention in the fall when the House held a contentious series of votes to elect a new speaker. He was among several Republicans to withdraw support for Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan after Ferguson said he and his family received death threats from Jordan allies.

That vote irked some conservative constituents enough to protest outside his Newnan office, but other right-leaning voters’ grievances have been simmering for longer, said Jared Craig, a Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Ferguson in the 2022 primary.

 Jim Bennett, right, will run for the Congressional seat currently occupied by Congressman Drew Ferguson next year. Ferguson announced Thursday he will not be seeking re-election in his west Georgia district. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

“During the last couple of months of the Trump administration and into the Biden administration, he started voting differently,” Craig said.

Craig said voters came to oppose Ferguson’s votes on issues like red flag gun laws and benefits for veterans, and they complained he was usually not available to meet with constituents. His vote to certify President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election also rankled some.

“He started to go kind of towards the middle, where he had held himself out to be hard right,” Craig said.

The 3rd District, which includes much of west Georgia, is likely to send whoever wins the Republican primary to Congress. The district supported former President Donald Trump over Biden nearly two-to-one in 2020.

Craig said he’s not running again and is supporting Jim Bennett, a former police officer and the only Republican to have announced a run for the seat before Ferguson’s announcement.

In a call with the Recorder shortly after Ferguson made his announcement, Bennett said his campaign will continue to prioritize issues like stopping undocumented immigration, reducing inflation and cutting government spending, adding that his campaign is preparing to shift from fighting Ferguson to opposing anyone with eyes on the now-open seat.

“I do not believe for a moment that the establishment is done with District 3,” Bennett said. “I do not believe for a moment that the establishment will not have a candidate in this race, but he will not be more America first than me, because that simply isn’t possible. That’s how we’ll go forward.”

With Ferguson out, chances are good that numerous conservative-minded Georgians will throw their names in the hat. Philip Singleton, a former state representative and current chief of staff for Congressman Rich McCormick, said his name could be one of them.

“Julie and I are praying and seriously considering what God has in store for us,” he said in a text. “We are very open to a run in my home of GA3.”

Parts of the district are represented in the state Legislature by influential Republicans, including Sens. Mike Dugan, Matt Brass and Randy Robertson.

But district lines can change ahead of the 2024 election season, especially when a federal judge said they violated the Voting Rights Act. That’s what happened to the district lines in Georgia’s Congressional maps, and lawmakers just wrapped up a special session redrawing them to comply.

The Republicans in charge say the new maps are fine, but if Judge Steve Jones disagrees, he could appoint an outside expert to account for Black Georgians’ voting rights. The 3rd District lines were not altered by the new maps, but a court-drawn map could lead to entirely new boundaries for any or all of the state’s 14 congressional districts.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.