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Gov. candidate profile Jeff Chapman

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POSTED: July 15, 2010 1:47 p.m.

SAVANNAH — Little has changed for Jeff Chapman since last September, when he entered the race for this year's Republican nomination for governor.

"I don't know anything about him," Emory University political science professor Merle Black said then. "... I'm not sure that most other people do, either."

Indeed, Chapman, a businessman and state senator from Brunswick, apparently remains popular at home but almost unknown statewide.

The former Glynn County Commissioner won his District 3 seat in 2004 with 68 percent of the vote and was unopposed for re-election in 2006 and 2008.

But he's averaged just 2 percent or so in statewide polls, a showing some groups have used to exclude him from candidate forums.

One possible reason for his low statewide profile: He's not a member of the clubby inner circle of the Senate and has little clout there.

For whatever reason, Chapman, considered a bit of a maverick, has not chaired a major committee or held a Senate leadership post.

But in and around Brunswick, he's well-known for fighting to pare down massive redevelopment on Jekyll Island.

Following sharp criticism by Chapman and others, a developer backed out of its deal with the state last year, citing financial problems. The state recently announced a new deal with three companies.

In any case, Chapman bills himself as a defender of free enterprise, but also as a staunch foe of government cronyism with special interests.

"The establishment politics that exists today can no longer exist," he said at a forum in Marietta. "When someone can walk in ... and buy the oceanfront for a penny on the dollar like Jekyll Island State Park, a 25-year exclusive-rights contract, we've truly got an issue."

His other positions are a mixed bag.

He's for property rights, environmental protection, water conservation, gun owner rights, open government and limiting taxes.

But getting his message on those and other issues out to the GOP electorate depends heavily on advertising, especially on TV. And that takes lots of money.

He and others were affected by the ban on state elected officials from accepting campaign cash while the Legislature met from Jan. 11 through April 28.

As of March 31, when the last reporting period ended, Chapman had collected about $117,000. That's not only far less than any major contender, but also too little to mount a statewide TV blitz big enough to be noticed.

Those difficulties aside, he remains committed to the rationale for his campaign he spelled out on day one.

"With all due respect to the other six candidates," he said, "I think I can do a better job at representing the interests of Georgia."

Now — as was the case last September — all Chapman has to do is convince the voters.

 

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