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Balfour drops out of race for Linder's seat

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

ATLANTA -- Republican Senator Don Balfour will not run to replace John Linder in the U.S. House.

The Snellville-based lawmaker says he wants to focus on running an efficient Rules Committee. He says he's looking forward to welcoming his son home soon from his service in Afghanistan and focusing on his career at Waffle House.

Balfour announced March 1 his plans to seek the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District east of Atlanta.

Days earlier, Linder had announced that he would retire after 18 years in the House. The 7th district includes parts of Gwinnett, Barrow and Walton counties.

Balfour says he has enjoyed his 18 years in the Senate and wants to be remembered in part for helping in the inception of Georgia Gwinnett College.

The news makes state Rep. Clay Cox the front-runner in the race, which also includes Walton County businessman Tom Kirby in the July Republican primary. No Democrat has announced a campaign.

Cox said the news was unexpected.

"It sort of opens up the field for us," Cox said late Thursday. "I think people have responded to our message for change. ... All this does for us is make us work even harder than we have been."

Senior writer Camie Young contributed to this report.