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Posted: October 28, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Does anybody care about these races?

You would think people would be fired up about the congressional races on tap for next year, considering that Republicans will be trying to reverse their election losses of 2006 and 2008 while Democrats will be trying to protect their majority status.

Looking around the political landscape, however, it seems most Georgia voters will be more than happy to sleep through the 2010 round of congressional elections. Every incumbent who runs for another term next year will probably be reelected — which was also the case in 2008.

The one exception is the 9th Congressional District in the northeast, where veteran Rep. Nathan Deal is stepping down to run for governor.

The race in this heavily Republican district has attracted at least nine candidates who say they’ll run for Deal’s seat. The latest campaign disclosure reports for the quarter ending Sept. 30 show that three people are pulling away from the rest of the field, as far as the money is concerned.

The early frontrunners in fundraising are state Sen. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), former legislator Mike Evans of Cumming and state Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger).

Hawkins has raised $301,000, a total that includes $145,300 that he loaned to his campaign. Graves raised $279,600, none of it his own money, while Evans pulled in contributions totaling $202,500.

For first-time candidates in a congressional race where the primary election is still nine months away, those are fairly impressive totals.

Graves and Evans are both burning through their campaign cash a little faster than Hawkins. Graves has spent $85,600 and still had nearly $194,000 in the bank. Evans has spent $79,000 and had $123,000 left in his campaign account. Hawkins spent the more modest amount of $20,000 and had the most available cash of the three candidates with $280,000.

Former state senator Bill Stephens of Cherokee County is still an announced candidate in the race, but his fundraising has been slow. He raised a little more than $20,000 during the third quarter for a total this year of only $61,000. If he’s serious about running, he will have to pump up those fundraising efforts.

When you venture outside the 9th District, the other members of Georgia’s House delegation seem to be in good shape. The voters are either happy with their performance or just don’t care.

Republican Reps. Phil Gingrey and Tom Price, who have no significant opposition on the horizon, are sitting on the largest piles of cash of any congressmen.

Gingrey reported raising $609,000 last quarter and had the amazing total of $1.12 million in his campaign account. Price raised $817,000 and had more then $689,000 still available to spend. With that kind of money in the bank and more on the way from healthcare interests, Price and Gingrey don’t have to worry.

In Southwest Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, state Rep. Mike Keown (R-Coolidge) is mounting a challenge to longtime Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop of Albany.

Keown has raised $105,000, which is not bad for a first-time challenger. Bishop, who has won reelection decisively over under-financed candidates in recent campaign cycles, had nearly three times as much cash available for the race: $289,994. That’s a big margin to make up.

Rep. Jim Marshall of Macon, a Blue Dog Democrat who’s been a favorite target of Republican operatives in past elections, has $425,000 in the bank right now. Neither of the Republicans who have said they will run in the GOP primary in this district have even filed a contribution report.

Rep. John Barrow of Savannah is another Blue Dog Democrat in a strong financial position, with a campaign war chest of $529,000. Thunderbolt fire chief Carl Smith, an announced GOP candidate, only raised $2,135 last quarter and another potential GOP candidate, Jeanne Seaver, has not filed a disclosure report.

Republican Rep. Paul Broun of Athens has also been an energetic fundraiser, with almost $852,000 in contributions and no major opposition to worry about, at least at this point in time. Broun is still saddled with massive debts from his 2007 and 2008 races in the 10th District. Although he has paid down some of the debt, he still owes more than $272,000. When you consider all those dollar amounts, it looks like 2010 will be a safe year for congressional incumbents — and a boring year for most voters.

Tom Crawford is the editor of Capitol Impact’s Georgia Report, an Internet news service at www.gareport.com that covers government and politics in Georgia. He can be reached at tcrawford@capitolimpact.net.

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