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Evans to seek congressional seat
Deal's decision sets off scramble
Evans Mike 08
Mike Evans
* Nathan Deal makes bid for governor official.

Mike Evans, former state transportation board chairman, has become the first announced candidate to succeed Nathan Deal in Congress.

Evans, who served four terms in the state House, said he is running to protect homeowners, retirement funds and small businesses from what he calls “Obama liberalism.”

“From job losses to stock losses to the housing market, these are difficult times for everyone,” Evans said in a statement. “This decline will likely get much worse because of the dangerously radical agenda of President Obama and Speaker Pelosi.

"I’m running for Congress to take a stand for the values North Georgians embrace and the values that have made our country great.”

Deal, a nine-term congressman from Gainesville, ended a week of speculation Friday when he said he would seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2010.

Evans is married to former Department of Transportation Commissioner Gena Evans. He stepped down from the transportation board last year when he announced he and the commissioner were dating. They were married last summer.

He now represents the 9th district on the state Board of Community Affairs and served as district chairman for the John McCain campaign for president in 2008.

The couple lives in Forsyth County, where Evans is a real estate investor. They have three children.

Evans was among the 500 well wishers gathered Friday at the Hall County Courthouse for Deal’s announcement.

A number of other potential candidates to succeed Deal also were there, including state Sen. Chip Pearson and former U.S. Rep. Max Burns.

They were careful not to take away from Deal’s announcement. Evans would announce his bid later in the day.

"This is Nathan’s day," said Pearson, a Dawsonville Republican who said he would support Deal for governor. "I have confidence in him and am willing to roll up my sleeves, along with members of the Senate and House."

Burns, who served one term in the U.S. House, was defeated in a re-election bid in 2004.

In a comeback attempt in 2006, he spent $2 million in a race against John Barrow of Savannah. Barrow won the race by 864 votes, the narrowest margin for a Democratic incumbent.

Since that time, Burns accepted the position as dean of the business school at North Georgia College & State University. He said he has not ruled out running.

"You know you never say never," Burns said.

Two potential candidates had previous out-of-town engagements and could not attend Deal’s announcement.

State Rep. James Mills, who was at a conference in Memphis, said first and foremost he was supporting Deal.

"I’m excited that Nathan Deal has thrown his hat in the ring and will make a fine governor," said Mills, a Chestnut Mountain Republican.

As to the race for Congress, Mills said he is pondering the future.

"Congressional seats don’t open up every day," he said, adding that among his considerations is that he has young children and knows the job in Washington would require him to be away from his family.

State Sen. Lee Hawkins of Gainesville, said he was still talking with his supporters at home and would make a decision soon.

Others mentioned as possible Republican candidates include state Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga, state Reps. Tom Graves of Ranger and David Ralston of Blue Ridge, and former state Sen. Bill Stephens.