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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Cox amasses even more endorsements

While Don Balfour's departure from the 7th Congressional District race could prompt other candidates to enter it, the new front-runner said people are rallying around him.

State Rep. Clay Cox, the Lilburn Republican who ran for Congress in the 13th Congressional District in 2002, said Balfour's surprise decision left him "nearly speechless."

"Leaders from this area -- leaders whom I have respected for years -- have come out in support of my campaign from the day I announced my candidacy," said Cox, who had been on the offensive with Balfour since the day he entered the race two weeks ago.

"Since Sen. Balfour announced his withdrawal from the race, the election dynamics might have changed for some potential candidates but it has actually had little effect on the surging momentum I've seen from the beginning. Fielding supporters' phone calls from within the district and from every part of the state has been part of my daily routine for several weeks."

With news that Balfour may retire from his Senate seat as well, Cox thanked the Snellville man for his many years of service and wished him well both in the private sector and with the safe return of his son from Afghanistan.

On Friday, Cox amassed even more endorsements, though, from people who may have kept from keeping a side between two powerful Gwinnett legislators.

Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, Sen. John Douglas, R-Covington, Rep. David Casas, R-Lilburn, Rep. Doug Holt, R-Social Circle, and Rep. Bobby Reese, R-Sugar Hill, all cast their support to Cox.

"Clay Cox is a good friend and he will make an outstanding congressman," Shafer said. "When I decided three weeks ago not to enter this race myself, I encouraged Clay to run. I am counting on him to fight for our conservative principles and help bring fiscal sanity to Washington."

Reese, who lives in the 7th District but is running for Nathan Deal's 10th Congressional District, said he hoped to serve alongside Cox in Congress.

On a fun note, former Falcon place kicker Jason Elam is also giving Cox a hand. After all, Cox claims to have taught Elam all he knows, when the NFL great replaced him on his Brookwood High School team.

Washington trip helps answer airport questions

Gwinnett officials got an up-close glance at the health care debate in Washington last week, as a delegation from the Chamber of Commerce took an annual trip to the nation's Capitol.

Chairman Charles Bannister, who spent time with Georgia's senators and Gwinnett's U.S. Rep. John Linder, said the mood was "gloom and doom" for Republicans, as the health care vote approached.

But local officials were able to take advantage of the trip to meet with Federal Aviation Administration officials, as the county prepares a grant application to study the privatization of Briscoe Field.

Bannister said the application would likely be turned in this week, and the meeting gave local officials a better understanding of the process, which could take three years to explore the positives and negatives.

"I personally think that we will be able to get our information in and be given an opportunity to take the next step," Bannister said of a pilot program allowing governments to look into privatization without having to return federal grant money that paid for airport upgrades.

"It's not a done deal," he said. "It's a long process."

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

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