The first candidate has announced his intentions to seek the Georgia House District 133 seat being vacated by incumbent John Pezold.
Christopher Gyening, 27, announced his intentions Tuesday night at the Muscogee County Republican Party meeting. Gyening, who lives in north Columbus but attended high school in Troup County, is a non-traditional candidate for the seat, that covers parts of Muscogee, Harris and Troup counties.
Gyening is a 2016 Columbus State University graduate with a degree in military and global issues. He enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard, 648 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade assigned to Fort Benning. He works as a part-time teller for Synovus.
“I wasn’t going to run until 2020, but I felt like God has put this in front of me,” Gyening said Thursday morning.
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Gyening said he was pleased with the way his announcement was received by the local Republican party.
“I am a young, black Republican and I think that kind of shocked everybody,” he said. “But between Troup County and living in north Columbus, I have been around this district for 10 years.”
Pezold, who has held the seat since 2012 when he unseated incumbent Kip Smith, announced earlier this year he would not seek re-election in 2018 for a fourth term. That opened the door, but candidates have been slow to step forward.
The Republican Primary will be held on May 22, 2018. Candidates must qualify between March 5-8, 2018.The General Election is scheduled for November 2018, but the seat is a heavily Republican-leaning district.
Gyening’s path to this point has not been a direct one. He dropped out of Troup High school and earned his GED. He briefly attended Concordia College in Selma, Ala., then enrolled in Valdosta State University before leaving school to open a tax preparation business in Atlanta.
During that time, Gyening said he had brief periods of homelessness in Valdosta and Atlanta.
Five years ago, he joined the National Guard and moved back to Columbus, where his mother is a physician. He enrolled in Columbus State University, where he earned his degree and was active in many campus organizations.
“Growing up, I was never perfect,” Gyening said. “Everybody said, ‘Why are you always getting into trouble?’ I was just one of those guys. But the military changed my life and focused me.”
Gyening sees his early struggles as an advantage as he seeks public office for the first time.
“I think it is,” he said. “I was homeless, I dropped out of high school and got my GDE. I have overcome a lot.”