Politics

Ethics Issues Loom In Likely Congressional Race

House members work during the House's session on the final day of the 2015 legislative session, Thursday, April 2, 2015, in Atlanta.  By law, Georgia's General Assembly meets for 40 working days each year. Any bills not approved by each chamber by midnight are dead for the year.  (AP Photo/Branden Camp)
House members work during the House's session on the final day of the 2015 legislative session, Thursday, April 2, 2015, in Atlanta. By law, Georgia's General Assembly meets for 40 working days each year. Any bills not approved by each chamber by midnight are dead for the year. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)
Credit Branden Camp / Associated Press

Ethics Issues Loom In Likely Congressional Race

A hospital lobbyist gives money to a state lawmaker running for U.S. Congress, and the candidate turns around and votes on a hospital bill in the Georgia state legislature.

It’s an ethical problem that will likely appear when state lawmakers gather in Atlanta for the annual legislative session.

“It creates conflicts, or certainly the potential for a conflict,” said State Senator Josh McKoon. “If you’re going to go run for congress, run for congress. If you’re going to be a state legislator, be a state legislator.”

A special election for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District could take place sometime in the first half of 2017. The seat is currently held by Rep. Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to be the next secretary of Health and Human Services.

A handful of Georgia legislators are reportedly considering a run for Price’s seat, which includes Sandy Springs, Alpharetta and east Cobb County. A dozen names could end up on the ballot.

The exact date of the election depends on when Price is approved by congress and resigns his seat in the U.S House. Gov. Nathan Deal would then be required to call for a special election.

Justin Tomczak, is a Republican activist involved in multiple winning congressional campaigns. He said if he was advising a state lawmaker running for the seat, he would tell them to resign.

“One, to avoid that appearance of a conflict of interest,” he said. “And two, if you’re running for Congress that’s a full-time job, and when the legislative session is in that’s a full-time job. I think it would be hard to effectively juggle both of those responsibilities at the same time.”

Tomczak acknowledged even if a candidate rakes in campaign money during the session, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being unduly influenced. 

But resigning from Georgia’s Legislature doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. If a congressional candidate does that, their state seat could be empty for at least part of the session. That means their voters wouldn’t be represented at the statehouse. 

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