Former pro baseball player turned Georgia legislator makes pitch for higher office

Donald Trump’s surprising victory last week has unsettled not only the race for governor, but also down-ticket contests. And count state Rep. Geoff Duncan among the growing number of politicians eyeing an outsider-type run for higher office.

The Cumming Republican appears likely to run for lieutenant governor if Casey Cagle makes a play for the open governor’s seat, a prospect few Capitol insiders are betting against. But he also didn’t rule out a run for any of the other statewide posts open in 2018.

“We continue to receive encouragement from around the state to consider running for a statewide office in 2018,” said Duncan. “My wife and I have begun the process of looking into a decision of that magnitude but are in no rush to make a decision.”

He adds: “One clear message we continue to hear from the voters across Georgia is they are no longer looking to just elect the next person in line for a leadership role, they expect much more."

Duncan has forged an unconventional path to office. A former Georgia Tech standout, Duncan pitched six seasons in the Miami Marlins minor league system before reconstructive shoulder surgery in 2001 forced him to end his career. He moved to the Atlanta suburbs with his wife to start a marketing company and now runs a healthcare firm.

He decided to run for office in 2011, making a play for a newly-created House district drawn that seemed designed for former Rep. Tom Knox’s comeback. He won the seat in 2012 by 55 votes, and since taking office has a few wins under his hat.

His proposal to require all bar bouncers to be 21 or older – dubbed Michael’s Law after the death last year of an 18-year-old bar staffer – passed last year with little opposition.

He also backed legislation that allows residents or corporations to get a state tax credit for donating money to a rural hospital, a measure pitched as a way to help struggling rural facilities. It passed despite criticism from some Democrats, although top lawmakers are worried some of the funds could be siphoned to consultants.

In the upcoming legislative session, Duncan said he is aiming to overhaul the state’s complicated title tax, which requires newcomers moving to the state to pay a one-time 7 percent sales tax on their car’s value. That measure replaced the state’s annual “birthday tax” for cars purchased after 2013.

Duncan is among about a half-dozen lawmakers said to be considering a run for Cagle’s post if he steps down.

Among the other potential Republican contenders are Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer, Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, state Sen. Butch Miller, state Sen. Burt Jones, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols and former Georgia National Guard head Jim Butterworth. The Democratic field appears wide open.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.