The embattled head of Georgia’s Democratic Party is stepping down at the end of the week.
Mike Berlon’s decision to formally resign on Sunday allows fellow Democrats to begin the search for his successor.
Berlon told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week he would resign amid a spate of recent legal troubles and the revelation by the newspaper of several other pending lawsuits against him. But he said the process could take weeks.
That timetable quickened considerably on Monday. Berlon said he wants to ensure that “Democrats get back to the business of demonstrating why we are best positioned to lead this state into the future.”
State Rep. Calvin Smyre, a past party chairman; former House Minority Leader DuBose Porter; ex-state Sen. Doug Stoner; and Johnson, Reed’s former campaign manager, are said to be in the mix to succeed Berlon on a permanent basis.
The party’s next leader will help shape the party’s message, raise funds and recruit candidates. He or she must also decide whether to heed Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s advice that the party should focus on an open U.S. Senate seat and not a challenge against Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.
Berlon telegraphed his view on that debate with this parting message:
“We have a great opportunity to win a US Senate seat here in 2014,” he said. “We also have good shot at the governor’s race with the right candidate.”