Drew Ferguson’s retirement triggers wide-open Georgia US House race

U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson’s surprise decision not to seek another term in his west Georgia-based district triggers a wide-open race for a deeply conservative U.S. House seat at a time when Georgia’s political maps are still in flux.

The four-term Republican joined a growing number of House members heading for the U.S. Capitol’s exits after a tumultuous year in Washington marred by a battle between mainstream conservatives and far-right figures over control of the chamber.

Once seen as a rising star in Congress, Ferguson’s brand of nonconfrontational politics — and his conspicuous decision not to join other Georgia Republicans in objecting to the results of the 2020 election — put him at odds with the state’s GOP House delegation.

The former West Point mayor was among the Republicans who received death threats when he opposed U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan’s bid for House speaker after Kevin McCarthy of California was ousted. Ferguson is one of about a dozen House Republicans calling it quits in 2024.

Ferguson’s decision set off speculation that he could seek statewide office in 2026, when the U.S. Senate, governor and every constitutional post are on the ballot. Ferguson was tightlipped about his next step, describing it as the “right thing at the right time for me and my family” in a text message.

It opened the door for a rush of candidates seeking to succeed him in a district that stretches from Atlanta’s southwestern suburbs to the Alabama-Georgia line. Ferguson captured the district with nearly 70% of the vote last year, making it a salivating prospect for ambitious Republicans.

“All of the calls and texts have been extremely encouraging. I have been honored to serve and do amazing things,” said former state Rep. Philip Singleton, who is now the top aide to U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick. “We are very open to a run.”

Singleton, who unsuccessfully challenged Ferguson in 2018, is one of numerous potential contenders.

Others include state Sens. Matt Brass, Mike Dugan and Randy Robertson; state Rep. David Jenkins; former state Rep. Tim Bearden; former state Sen. Mike Crane, who ran for Congress in 2010; and Chris West, the GOP nominee last year for a neighboring Democratic-held district.

“I’ve been getting calls, and I haven’t even spoken with my wife about the potential yet,” said West, who recently moved to Coweta County in Ferguson’s district. “Voters are going to want a fighter, and you’ll see a lot of folks get into what will definitely be a hard-fought contest.”

Brian Jack, standing to President Donald Trump's left at a meeting with Georgia first responders, is a potential candidate in 2024 in the state's 3rd Congressional District. AP file.

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One of the most surprising names that surfaced was Brian Jack, a longtime Donald Trump aide who is now a senior adviser to the former president’s campaign. A native of Atlanta’s suburbs, Jack was White House director of political affairs during Trump’s administration and also served as a McCarthy deputy.

“It’s going to be a huge field,” said former U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a six-term Republican who retired in 2016 and was succeeded by Ferguson. “I won’t be in it unless God asks me himself to join the race -- and even then it’s a questionable conversation.”

Westmoreland added: “I was there for 12 years and it was nothing like it is now. It has to be complete misery.”

But there is still great uncertainty over what the district boundaries will look like.

The Republican-led Legislature redrew Georgia’s congressional and legislative maps this month after a federal judge ruled the current lines illegally dilute Black voting power, but Democrats and their allies are challenging the new boundaries in court.

The outcome could ultimately be decided by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court, though there is a tight deadline. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said his office needs the political maps finalized by late January to prepare ballots.

While the legal battle escalates — U.S. District Judge Steve Jones set a Wednesday hearing over the fate of the map — Ferguson’s potential successors are already burning up phone lines, calling activists and courting supporters.

“We just have to leave the maps to the Legislature and the courts,” West said, “and, for whoever the candidates end up being, you just qualify and run your race.”

Republican Chris West, right, lost his challenge against Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop in the 2022 general election for Georgia's 2nd Congressional District. Since then, he has moved to Coweta County in the 3rd Congressional District, where next year's race will be wide open now that Republican U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson has announced he will not seek reelection. Screenshot via Atlanta Press Club Facebook page.

Credit: Screenshot via Atlanta Press Club Facebook page

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Credit: Screenshot via Atlanta Press Club Facebook page