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Hill to run for state House

ATLANTA - Former Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Wayne Hill took the first step toward returning to public office Tuesday, qualifying to run for a state House seat representing his native northern Gwinnett.

"I think I still have something to give to the citizens,'' Hill, 63, of Suwanee, said after signing up to challenge Rep. Bobby Reese, R-Sugar Hill, in the July 18 Republican primary.

Hill served 12 years as county chairman - the longest tenure in Gwinnett history - before losing to current Chairman Charles Bannister two years ago in the GOP primary. That defeat came despite Hill landing an endorsement from Gov. Sonny Perdue.

During his tenure, Hill took the blame for planning and zoning decisions that contributed to traffic congestion, overcrowded schools and other problems associated with Gwinnett's rapid population growth.

But on Tuesday, Hill talked about his positive contributions to the county's quality of life, including the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, which will open this fall in Buford on the site of a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant named for him. Planning for the county's first "green'' building began during Hill's administration.

"People are beginning to realize that Wayne Hill did care,'' he said. "Some things he could control, and some he couldn't.''

Reese, 51, who qualified on Monday, said he believes Hill is running more from a desire to get back into politics than out of any dissatisfaction with the job the incumbent is doing at the Capitol.

"I'll run on my voting record,'' Reese said. "If he has issues with that, he can bring them up.''

Hill said he respects Reese and that he will be a formidable opponent. But Hill said he believes he can be a "stronger voice'' for the 98th House District - which includes Suwanee, Buford and Sugar Hill - because of his experience in county government and the contacts he has made with political leaders across the state.

"I'll be a freshman legislator if I get down here,'' he said. "But I don't think I'll have freshman knowledge.''

Hill was among just a handful of candidates who showed up at the Capitol on Tuesday, the second day of the week-long qualifying period, after Monday's typical first-day rush to file.

The day's short list of qualifiers included three Democrats who signed up to run for lieutenant governor: state Sen. Steen Miles of Decatur, former state Rep. Jim Martin of Atlanta, and Rufus Terrill of Atlanta. They join Democrat Griffin Lotson of Darien, who filed for the post on Monday.

On the Republican side, Sen. Bill Stephens of Canton filed his paperwork to run for secretary of state. He is expected to oppose Karen Handel, chairwoman of the Fulton County Commission, in the GOP primary.

Five Democrats signed up on Monday to run for secretary of state.

Interest is high in both jobs because they're open. Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Secretary of State Cathy Cox are seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Perdue.

Only three additional incumbent legislators from Gwinnett County qualified to run for re-election on Tuesday, joining a long list of local lawmakers who signed up Monday.

Qualifying Tuesday were freshman Sen. Curt Thompson, D-Norcross, and two-term Rep. David Casas, R-Lilburn and Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford.