Longtime Harris County Republican legislator and former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation Vance Smith announced over the weekend his intention to run for his former House of Representatives seat.
Smith, 65, said he will run in the Republican primary next May for the seat being vacated by Rep. John Pezold.
“I just got it in my blood,” Smith said Monday, confirming his candidacy and what his wife, Michele, had posted on Facebook on Saturday. “We have been looking at it since March, and Michele and I made the decision on Saturday morning. We have talked to a lot of people in Muscogee, Troup and Harris counties about this.”
Smith had options as he pondered a political comeback.
He said he considered a run for the vacant Georgia Senate District 29 seat, but decided to run for the open House seat instead. Georgia Fraternal Order of Police president and retired Muscogee County Sheriff’s major Randy Robertson is the only announced candidate for the seat being vacated by Sen. Josh McKoon, a candidate for Georgia Secretary of State.
“We considered both seats,” Smith said. “But there were a lot of factors in this decision. I know and enjoy the House, and that is where I have been before. I have a lot of respect for the House, not that I don’t have respect for the Senate.”
Smith spent 17 years in the General Assembly before leaving to become the department head of one of the state’s most powerful agencies. He was elected in 1993 to a House district that is different from the one that exists today. When he went into the House, the district included all of Harris County. District 133 now includes about 85 percent of the county, excluding the southeast corner. The district also includes part of northeast Muscogee County and the southern portion of Troup County.
Smith, who had been chairman of the House Transportation Committee, was hired as commissioner of the DOT in June 2009. He resigned from that job in September 2011.
Smith, who lives on the Harris County backwaters of Lake Harding, owns Vance Smith Contracting and Consulting Company LLC.
Pezold, a Columbus Republican, has held the seat for the past five years. Pezold won the seat in 2012 when he defeated Smith’s son, incumbent Kip Smith, in a contested Republican primary.
Pezold announced in April, after the 2017 session, that he would not seek a fourth term in 2018. He will serve out the current term, which includes the 2018 General Assembly session beginning in January.
Christopher Gyening, 27, announced his intentions last month at the Muscogee County Republican Party meeting. Gyening, who lives in north Columbus but attended high school in Troup County, is seeking election for the first time. He is a Columbus State University graduate and a member of the Georgia National Guard.
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.