STATE SENATE PREVIEW: Which Rick will roll?
Rick Williams, Baldwin County's State Representative since 2017, decided to take a leap of faith a few months ago and announced that he was running for State Senate, the "upper chamber" of the Georgia General Assembly and the one with much more sway.
Running for State Senate is more challenging than State Representative, and candidates must step out of their comfort zone and venture into different counties where their name recognition isn't nearly as high. It's especially challenging when one of your opponents’ name recognition around the state is much higher than yours, which is the case for Williams in the District 25 Republican primary election, all set for May 24.
His name is Rick Jeffares (pronounced "Jeffers"), and he received 134,000 votes just four years ago in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, which was nearly as the eventual winner, Geoff Duncan, and Jeffares just narrowly missing the runoff.
One of the pics on his campaign website – https://www.jeffares4ga.com – is Rick Jeffares standing in a field, because no Republican primary in Georgia would be complete without someone standing in a field.
Qualifying in Atlanta ended on Friday afternoon. Here are the candidates who filled out the paper work and paid their money:
• Rick Jeffares – Republican; business owner/project manager; Jackson, Ga.
• Leland "Jake" Olinger, II – Republican; retired; (no place of residence listed)
• Daniela Sullivan-Marzahl – Republican; chaplain licensed professional counselor; (no place of residence listed)
• Ricky "Rick" Williams – Republican; funeral director; Milledgeville, Ga.
• Valerie Rodgers – Democrat; retired educator; veteran; (no place of residence listed)
Rodgers was the only Democrat to qualify, which means that she is the only candidate assured of making it to November and having their name on the General Election ballot. Rodgers' chances of winning are extremely minimal, however, as District 25 is a very "safe" Republican district. Any Democrat who runs in District 25 basically does so out of boredom or for the life experience. In 2020, for example, Democrat Veronica Brinson picked up 32.3 percent of the General Election vote in District 25, while no Democrat even bothered to qualify in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
The District 25 seat is officially open after incumbent Burt Jones, who's been Baldwin County's State Senator since 2013, qualified last week to run for lieutenant governor. Jones and Jeffares both listed their residence as "Jackson," although Jones is expected to remain neutral in the District 25 race and not endorse any candidate.
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Prior to Jones' victory in 2012 over Milledgeville man Johnny Great, the District 25 seat had been held by somebody from Baldwin County since, well, for as long as anybody can remember.
The new-look District 25 looks much like the old one, and it includes all of Jones, Baldwin, Putnam, Jasper, Butts and a southern swath of Henry. Baldwin easily is the largest county in the district and has the most voters, but Baldwin also by far is the least Republican, which somewhat negates an otherwise big advantage for Williams.
Despite having a relatively well-known opponent with plenty of existing connections in the district and all over Georgia, Williams told Baldwin2k News after qualifying last week that he is "ready to hit the ground running."
"I can't really do any campaigning right now, and I can't start raising money while the (General Assembly) session is still in, but come April 5 I will be hitting the pavement," said Williams, owner of Williams Funeral Home on North Jefferson Street. "I plan on introducing myself to a number of people and getting my message out there – I have a servant's heart and a love for public service; I'm a common-sense conservative Georgian and I enjoy helping people.”
Williams was first elected in 2016 and became the first Republican State Representative from Baldwin County in as long as anyone can remember. Prior to Williams' tenure, Baldwin County was represented by Rusty Kidd, who was the only "Independent" in the General Assembly at the time. Prior to that, meanwhile, Baldwin was represented in the lower chamber by Democrat Bobby Parham, who at the time of his retirement from politics was "the longest-tenured State Representative or State Senator in Georgia." Parham was first elected in the 1970s.