State Rep. Mickey Channell, R-Greensboro, last week announced his retirement from the General Assembly, citing health concerns. As the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the state House of Representatives, his decision to step down is all the more significant.

Channell’s retirement also triggers Georgia’s first post-2014 special election. Thus far, two candidates have announced for the District 120 seat, which spans Oglethorpe, Greene, Taliaferro, Putnam, and Wilkes Counties and is located in Georgia’s 10th U.S. congressional district.

Jesse Johnson is an unknown political commodity, having never sought office before. He owns both Southern Land Exchange and Southern Timberland Consultants and is a member of the Georgia Forestry Association.

As this is written, his only opponent is another Oglethorpe County resident – Gary Gerrard. In terms of name recognition, he begins the frantic race with the advantage. Gerrard ran for Congress this year, vying in a crowded race to succeed outgoing U.S. Rep. Paul Broun. He failed to crack double digits, though, drawing seven percent of the vote and placing fourth behind Mike Collins, Donna Sheldon and eventual winner Jody Hice.

In conversations with Gerrard supporters, however, the focus is on how he fared in Channell’s House District 120. Gerrard carried both Oglethorpe and Taliaferro Counties, placed a distant third in both Greene and Wilkes, and ran fourth in Putnam. Few Republican votes were cast in Taliaferro in the May primary, but Gerrard enjoyed a considerable home-field advantage in Oglethorpe; it along, with Putnam and Greene, was one of the three highest turnout counties. 

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