Cole pulls name from secretary of state appointment

tfain@macon.comJanuary 5, 2010 

State Rep. Jim Cole of Forsyth won’t be Georgia’s next secretary of state after all.

Cole was going to be announced Monday as Gov. Sonny Perdue’s appointment to replace Secretary of State Karen Handel, who is leaving office to focus on her gubernatorial run. But he withdrew his name over the weekend, and Perdue announced former state Sen. Brian Kemp as his choice.

Kemp, who lives in Athens, is one of several candidates planning a bid to replace Handel for a full four-year term in this year’s elections, and the governor’s choice gives him a leg up, particularly over fellow Republican candidate Doug MacGinnitie, a city councilman in Sandy Springs.

Cole, R-Forsyth, was going to enter the race too, but he decided instead to withdraw from politics, remain in Monroe County and work for his alma mater, Mercer University. He will serve out his term as the District 125 state representative, but not run for re-election later this year, he said.

Cole said he’d planned for some time to announce his plans at the end of the 2010 legislative session, which begins Jan. 11. But when the chance came to be secretary of state, he jumped at it initially. After another media outlet reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources, that the job was Cole’s, he confirmed the story to The Telegraph.

But a weekend of soul searching changed things, he said Monday.

“I literally went in my little boy’s room 15 times Saturday night,” Cole said. “And I just, it was ... something inside of me talking to me that I needed to re-evaluate.”

Cole said politics has been “consuming me” in recent years. He said the “competitive juices” will probably draw him back in one day, but not “until I get my children prepared for success.”

That leaves his seat representing parts of Monroe, Jones, Lamar counties and all of Jasper County, open for the 2010 election cycle. Former Monticello Mayor Susan Dykes Holmes has said she’ll seek the post.

Cole is the governor’s floor leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, and he was apologetic Monday for changing his mind after being offered a big opportunity. But he told The Telegraph that he slept well Sunday night after calling to tell Perdue he wouldn’t take the position.

“For the last six months, my wife, Gaylyn, and I have been planning to transition out of public service,” Cole said in a statement e-mailed Monday. “Over the last several months, I have been exploring many different opportunities at Mercer University that would afford me more time with my young children and at the same time provide exciting career opportunities. We had planned to announce after the legislative session that I would not seek re-election in order to take one of these opportunities at Mercer.

“At first, (the secretary of state job) seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime,” Cole said in the statement. “Yet, as the emotions of the moment settled down over the weekend, Gaylyn and I thought through this issue carefully and knew that it would be best for our family to continue with our original plan. This has not been an easy decision. I am profoundly grateful to the governor for his confidence in me and the opportunities he has given me.”

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.

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