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Stature grows in state
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Forsyth County News
With two hopefuls for insurance chief, it appears Forsyth County’s clout is growing in state politics.

An office-holder from Forsyth would give the county more influence at the state level, said Ethan Underwood, chairman of the local Republican Party.

“Surprisingly, a lot of folks don’t realize that the state insurance commissioner is a very powerful position,” Underwood said. “I’d say it’s probably in the top three in the state, so we would certainly have a lot of influence down at the state capitol.”

Both businessman Gerry Purcell and state Rep. Tom Knox have announced they will seek the Republican nomination for the post being vacated by John Oxendine.

“The office is designed to help look out for consumers and regulate the insurance industry to make sure they strike a fair balance between businesses and protecting individual policy holders,” Underwood said. “So we hope whoever wins that race, that would be their primary goal.”

Underwood said he must remain neutral until after the primary election.

If Knox or Purcell were to ultimately win the job, however, he would be the first county resident elected to statewide office in more than a decade.

After first being appointed by then Gov. Zell Miller, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald was elected to the Public Service Commission in 1998. McDonald has since moved to Habersham County.

Bill Barnett, who served as Forsyth’s lone state representative from 1983 to 1992, said the county’s statewide presence has grown substantially since his service.

“I can’t remember any statewide candidates being from Forsyth,” said Barnett of his time in office. “I don’t think it will hurt anything, that’s for sure.

“It’s always good to have people that have roots here that have some authority and power at the state capitol.”

Since Barnett left office, Forsyth has grown from one to three state House representatives. In addition, several county residents have also been tapped to serve on state panels and advisory committees.

E-mail Jennifer Sami at