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Local lawmakers back Stephens for secretary of state

After today, Bill Stephens will no longer get to pal around all day with his buddies at the Georgia General Assembly.

But he may have convinced a few to join him on the campaign trail while Stephens attempts to win the Republican nomination for secretary of state.

The senator from Canton got 100 legislators to endorse him just one day before the end of the 2006 session.

The group of 31 state senators and 69 state representatives represents the largest coalition of state legislator endorsements for any candidate in a primary race this election cycle.

"The toughest audience in politics can sometimes be your colleagues in the General Assembly," said Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson. "You can't fool these folks. Bill is a leader among leaders and his performance as a senator has convinced us all that he is the one proven conservative we support for secretary of state. I am proud to stand by him anywhere, anytime."

U.S. Reps. Charlie Norwood and Nathan Deal also endorsed Stephens.

Among the coalition are several key Gwinnett leaders: Sens. Don Balfour of Snellville, Renee Unterman of Buford, and Dan Weber of Dunwoody as well as Reps. Mike Coan of Lawrenceville, Brooks Coleman of Duluth, Clay Cox of Lilburn, David Casas of Lilburn, Bobby Reese of Sugar Hill, Tom Rice of Norcross, Len Walker of Loganville, and John Heard of Lawrenceville.

All three members of the General Assembly representing Barrow - Rep. Terry England of Auburn, Rep. Tommy Benton of Jefferson and Sen. Ralph Hudgens of Comer - sent their endorsement to Stephens, whose main competition in the primary is Fulton Chairwoman Karen Handel.

"These strong Republican endorsements should send clear and resounding message to Georgia voters," campaign manager Katie Grove said. "Bill Stephens has the support of so many Republican members of the General Assembly because he is the only candidate in this race with a proven record of capable, conservative legislative experience. End of story."

For those keeping a record, the only four Republicans with Gwinnett ties under the Gold Dome who are not on the Stephens endorsement list are Reps. Donna Sheldon of Dacula, Robert Mumford of Conyers and Melvin Everson of Snellville and Sen. David Shafer of Duluth.

Taser bill gets approval

A bill requiring police agencies using Taser stun guns to meet state training and certification standards is on its way to Gov. Sonny Perdue.

With little discussion, the House voted unanimously Tuesday to give the legislation final approval, agreeing to some minor changes the Senate had made to the measure.

The bill requires police departments to develop policies for using Tasers that comply with standards established by the Georgia Peace Officer Training Council.

Officers designated to use Tasers would have to complete a training program developed by the council and take periodic refresher courses.

The legislation was introduced into the House following the death of a Lawrenceville man nearly two years ago. Frederick Jerome Williams died at the Gwinnett County Detention Center in May 2004 after being stunned multiple times by a Taser during a struggle with deputies.

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Staff Writer Dave Williams contributed to this report.

Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.