Georgia Senate: A Kemp deputy applies for Isakson’s job

Allen Poole and Gov. Brian Kemp.
Allen Poole and Gov. Brian Kemp.

A former Georgia state trooper and top county official who now leads the state's highway safety agency applied on Friday applied for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's seat, giving Gov. Brian Kemp another close ally to consider for the coveted position.

Allen Poole told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he joined the hunt for the seat, which has attracted more than 500 applications from politicians, business executives, and everyday Georgians seeking to succeed Isakson when he steps down at the end of the year.

“Our nation is at a crossroads and we need bold, conservative leaders to stand with President Trump and deliver real results for the American people,” he said in a statement.

Poole served 14 years as the chairman of the Haralson County Commission before he was tapped by Kemp earlier this year to lead the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. He worked 19 years as a Georgia State Patrol office prior to seeking political office.

The timing of his application - just before a Monday deadline - and his position in the Kemp administration suggests he's seen by the governor and his advisers as a serious contender for the position.

The same could be said for another Kemp deputy who applied for the job Thursday – Robyn Crittenden, who runs the state's largest agency.

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Poole built a reputation in state politics as a black conservative who was elected to the top local government job in an overwhelmingly white county. He also offers grassroots connections in law enforcement circles and through county officials, including a stint as head of the Association of County Commissioners in Georgia.

One of 14 children, Poole grew up in Haralson County and graduated from Jacksonville State University across the Alabama border. He joined the Georgia State Patrol in 1983 and, 11 years later, got a close glimpse of state politics working the security detail for Guy Millner, who was running against Democratic Gov. Zell Miller.

Hooked on the idea of campaigning for office, he narrowly lost to a Democrat in 2000 for the post of sole commissioner of Haralson County, the home of legendary Democratic House Speaker Tom Murphy.

His victory four years later against a white candidate in the GOP primary and a white independent in the general election was viewed as a sign of sweeping change in parts of rural Georgia where yellow dog Democrats still dominated.

His campaign mantra then: “I'm a born-again Christian. Most Christians are conservative. Most conservatives are Republican.”

Poole is one of several applicants who applied after Kemp set a deadline for applications for Senate for Monday at 5 p.m., about two months after his unusual decision to invite the public to apply triggered a blitz of resumes from hopefuls.

Though the governor could select a more familiar name – he’s got plenty to choose from – he’s also under pressure to broaden the party’s base by tapping a person of color or someone who doesn’t come from a conventional political background.

Aside from Crittenden and Poole, other top potential contenders are U.S. Rep. Doug Collinsstate Rep. Jan Jones, the No. 2 Republican in the Georgia House; Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton and Jackie Gingrich Cushman, an author and fiscal analyst who is the daughter of the former House speaker.

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