LILBURN -- State Rep. Clay Cox began a campaign for Congress on Wednesday, pledging to be a conservative voice for local residents.
Less than a week after long-serving U.S. Rep. John Linder announced his impending retirement, Cox's announcement ushered in a contentious campaign season, as the Republican pointed out that another candidate state Sen. Don Balfour had announced his campaign while on a "junket" in Egypt.
"That's precisely what's wrong with politics," Cox said, challenging Balfour to relinquish his position as chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee, as he said he would step down as chairman of the House Human Relations and Aging Committee.
Balfour took the trip to deliver a speech as president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
With his wife, teenage sons and a crowd full of supporters, Cox said he would file three bills on his first day in office, if elected, including the FairTax legislation to abolish the federal income tax in favor of a national sales tax that Linder has championed during his time in Washington.
Cox said he would also draft a law to limit the terms of congressmen -- four six-year terms for senators and six two-year terms for House members. An idea to force lawmakers to spell out if the Constitution gives them authority to act on bills drew applause from the crowd gathered at Lilburn City Hall.
"We're going to put everything we've got into this race, and we're going to send common sense conservatism to Washington D.C.," he said, adding that he considered it to be a "badge of honor" to be considered the Tea Party candidate in the race for the 7th Congressional District.
"It's going to be a long, fast fight," he said.
Balfour and Cox will square off in a July Republican primary, along with Walton County businessman Tom Kirby, who announced a run for the office before Linder's retirement announcement.
"It is time to reform government and return to the limits and powers that the Constitution clearly defines for our government," Kirby said in a press release sent to the Post Wednesday.
Other candidates considering joining the foray include Gwinnett Commissioner Mike Beaudreau and Rep. Jeff May, R-Monroe. Sugar Hill Rep. Bobby Reese, who has been running for the 9th U.S. House District even though he lives in the 7th, said he would remain in the 9th district race.
Related political moves
Even before Cox made his formal announcement, political consultant Travis Bowden said he would run for the state House District 102 seat to replace him.
"I'm looking forward to serving my friends and neighbors and working with them to help keep Gwinnett a great place to live," said Bowden, a 28-year-old Parkview High School grad.
With Rep. David Casas pursuing Balfour's Senate seat, Republican activist Steve Ramey is running for his District 103.
"I pledge to help cut the bureaucratic red tape so small businesses may flourish and create new jobs," Ramey said. "We desperately need tax reform and I will continue to lead the fight against wasteful government spending and protect our conservative values."