On Sam Olens and the rumors of his imminent takeover of Kennesaw State

Attorney General Sam Olens and Gov. Nathan Deal. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Attorney General Sam Olens and Gov. Nathan Deal. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

The rumors that Sam Olens was about to step down as attorney general to become the next president of Kennesaw State University have swirled for months.

Your Insiders have chased them as far as they go, with Olens telling us in June that it was simply a rumor. But these things have a way of bouncing around the echo chamber of statewide politics and eventually leak back out.

Hence, dueling posts the past two days from GeorgiaPol.com on Tuesday and from Zpolitics.com on Wednesday. Neither names a source for the information, and we won’t either at this point because nobody with direct knowledge of the situation will confirm it.

Update at 1:43 p.m.: Charlie Sutlive, spokesman for the Board of Regents, which would actually decide who becomes the next KSU president, said they “do not comment on rumor or speculation.”

Original post continues: Gov. Nathan Deal, who would appoint his replacement should Olens resign mid-term, wouldn’t bite on a question about whether Olens would make a good fit at the troubled school. (For the background on why the presidency of KSU is in play, click here. Short version: There was a serious mess at the top of the university’s food chain.)

“We still have an attorney general, last I looked,” said Deal. “Those are decisions that somebody besides me has to make. Sam Olens has proven himself to be a very good attorney general and he’s garnered the support of the public.”

We’ve heard from a number of officials, Democrats and Republicans alike, speculating on who would be at the top of Deal’s list should Olens step down.

Economic development commissioner Chris Carr, a Deal loyalist who was once Sen. Johnny Isakson’s top aide, is often mentioned as a possibility. So is Rep. Doug Collins, a Gainesville Republican who told us Tuesday he’s focused on serving his district.

Other potential candidates include Deal executive counsel Ryan Teague: outgoing state Rep. B.J. Pak, a former federal prosecutor; Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert; and Court of Appeals Judge Mike Boggs.

Any choice Deal makes, of course, would have the 2018 election at the top of his mind. Pak and Carr are among the many Republican names swirling for a possible AG run then. And so is state Sen. Josh McKoon, the chief proponent of the “religious liberty” bill and a top adversary of Deal in the Legislature.

If the dominoes fall, look for Deal to anoint a replacement that could also serve to block McKoon. After all, as one well-connected Republican told us, “there’s a better chance that Gov. Deal appoints Barack Obama” to the seat than McKoon.

As far as we know, though, the speculation thus far is just that – speculation. Kennesaw officials say they know of nothing afoot, and a records request to Deal’s office seeking any mention of Olens revealed little more than the governor’s dinner plans with the AG and other state officials in June.


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