In the aftermath of qualifying, Ninth District Candidate Rep. Doug Collins paid a visit to Mike’s Ellijay Restaurant this week. Last Wednesday, Collins’ opponent Hunter Bicknell suspended his congressional campaign and decided to run for reelection for his current seat as Jackson County Commissioner Chairman. Bicknell, who had growing success in Gilmer, seems to have left a void, leaving numerous voters behind by exiting the race. Now, the question is: which candidate will pick up these votes? In an apparent effort to do so, the leading candidates in the race Rep. Collins and Martha Zoller scheduled events in Ellijay immediately following Bicknell’s announcement. Earlier this month, Bicknell’s visit to Gilmer County was well received, when a host a residents came out to support the chairman.
Collins’ Wednesday visit to Mike’s, however, drew a smaller crowd than his Fannin visit with Speaker David Ralston last Monday.
Gilmer residents and voters joined Collins around a table in the back of the restaurant, where voters had the opportunity to assess Collins more closely as a candidate. Some of these voters included former Bicknell supporters. Here, two notable supporters were Joe McCutchen and Oscar Poole; both had officially endorsed Bicknell earlier this month.
In an interview with FYN, one former Bicknell supporter Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said he will now give his support to Collins.
“I made up my mind that if something should happen to Hunter, if Hunter dropped out of the race, that I would be with Doug,”
“I want him to know that I’m with him 100 percent.”
Further, he said he supports Rep. Collins for his legislative record. Similarly, Nicholson added that one of the reasons he initially endorsed Bicknell was due to his record as Jackson County Commission Chairman. Over the past six months, Jackson County with Bicknell at the helm has experienced an influx of businesses coming into the county, where close to 2000 jobs have been or will be created.
Commenting on Collins, Nicholson said,
“I think he’s very knowledgeable and intelligent. You combine all that with his record and I think he’ll make a good candidate.”
Also in attendance, Phil and Sally Forest admitted they are undecided. Phil said his vote will be a
“toss up between Doug and Martha.”
When asked what the differences between the two candidates are, he called Zoller an outsider and Collins an insider, adding that he wasn’t sure which was better. Regarding the candidates’ platform, he shrugged his shoulders, saying he did not see much difference in their views. Despite her indecision, Sally said she is leaning strongly towards Collins, but could not officially endorse a candidate, due to her role on the executive committee of the Gilmer County Republican Party.
During his talk, Collins emphasized his legislative experience, where he said he has voted for cutting taxes, balanced budgets, and less government spending. Mrs. Forest, though, said, legislative experience is not necessarily a prerequisite, but added that she appreciated Collins alignment with current Ninth District Conservative Tom Graves. Graves, she noted,
“goes by what his constituents say, not the leadership.”
Both Phil and Sally feel that either Collins or Zoller will follow Graves’ example.
Martha Zoller is scheduled to visit Poole’s BBQ in East Ellijay Thursday, May 31st, where Bicknell recently had a strong showing. Roger Fitzpatrick will also visit Gilmer County, speaking at the June 5th Republican Meeting.