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Tamar Hallerman

Lynn Westmoreland endorses Drew Ferguson as his successor

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Jan. 14, 2016 - Atlanta - U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who served in the Georgia House in 1993, was introduced by Rep. Calvin Smyre (left), D - Columbus, as a guest speaker, as Speaker of the House David Ralston looks on. Westmoreland, who has announced he is not running for reelection to congress. Activity in the House and Senate was mostly ceremonial today. Deal administration officials (Chief of Staff Chris Riley and Office of Planning and Budget Director Theresa MacCartney) held a briefing on the FY17 budget and members of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus released it's 2016 legislative agenda. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, center. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Retiring U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland is endorsing dentist Drew Ferguson as his successor in the 3rd Congressional District, giving the former West Point mayor a major boost in his runoff battle against right wing darling Mike Crane next month.

The Coweta County Republican said Ferguson, who faces the state senator July 26, is “a strong, conservative voice for hard-working Georgians.”

“Drew knows that through building our local economy, creating stable jobs, and fostering economic opportunity that our community will perform at its best,” Westmoreland said in a statement.

The two are campaigning together today at Sprayberry’s in Newnan.

Westmoreland, who has been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate for 2018, has mainly avoided wading into the once-crowded race to replace him in the 3rd District, which stretches from Peachtree City to the northern suburbs of Columbus and north along the Alabama border. But he has spoken generally about what he thinks voters in the district need in a representative on Capitol Hill. Boiling it down: not a “hell no” Republican, but rather someone who’s willing to build relationships in order to move the ball forward incrementally.

After virtually tying in the May 24 primary, Crane and Ferguson have spent the weeks since stock-piling endorsements, the former from prominent conservatives– Sen. Ted Cruz and radio provocateur Erick Erickson are the most recent — and the latter basically everybody else. Ferguson has snagged nods from the other five Republican challengers in the race who did not make the runoff last month.

Next month’s race will largely be a numbers game. Congressional runoffs are low-turnout affairs, made even more challenging given that this one comes in the thick of vacation season when there are no other races being decided to help drive more interest.

The winner of next month’s contest will face Democrat Angela Pendley in November. The Republican candidate is heavily favored to win the seat in the deep-red Third District.