Chair of Georgia ethics commission to step down, paving way for House bid

Jake Evans

Jake Evans

The chairman of the Georgia ethics commission is stepping down after nearly five years on the panel, setting the stage for a likely run for the U.S. House in the Atlanta suburbs.

Jake Evans said Monday it has been a “supreme honor” leading the commission, though he didn’t elaborate on his next step after his June 30 resignation.

“We made great strides in making Georgia politics transparent and ethical,” he said. “I will forever cherish this chapter of public service and trust in God’s plan for me and my family.”

Evans, a Republican, is expected to join the unsettled race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who flipped the suburban seat in 2018 and fended off a comeback attempt by Karen Handel last year.

Evans, an attorney active in GOP politics, was tapped by then-Gov. Nathan Deal in 2016 to serve on the ethics commission. His father, Randy, was one of Deal’s lawyers and a close adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He later served as an ambassador in the Trump administration.

Already, at least two other Republicans have entered the contest for McBath’s seat: Eric Welsh, a retired U.S. Army colonel; and Harold Earls, a U.S. Army veteran with a vast YouTube and Instagram following who also plans to highlight his outsider appeal.

Since potential candidates still don’t know what the district boundaries will be, and the maps won’t be redrawn until the end of the year, Evans and other formidable contenders are still on the sidelines. They include state Sen. Brandon Beach and former state Rep. Meagan Hanson.

Depending on how the district lines are drawn, Republican candidates in the neighboring 7th District could also switch races to challenge McBath. That means Dr. Rich McCormick, an emergency room physician who narrowly lost to Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux in 2020, could swap contests.

The ethics agency is charged with collecting campaign finance, vendor gift and lobbying expenditure reports; registering lobbyists; issuing advisory opinions; and dispensing penalties for violations.

While chairman, Evans helmed the search for a replacement for the commission’s former director, who resigned in 2019 after complaints were filed saying he watched pornography at work and told staffers to sit on potential campaign finance violations of city hall and gubernatorial candidates.

At grassroots GOP events in the suburbs, Evans has emphasized his work in election law, an issue that has energized GOP partisans stoked by Donald Trump’s false claims of a “rigged” election.

Among his legal cases, Evans uncovered mapmaking mistakes and ineligible voters that led to two separate do-over votes in a Republican-on-Republican legislative contest in a heavily-conservative district in north Georgia.