We’re picking up reliable word that former federal prosecutor Joe Whitley, who has never held elected office before, is giving some thought to running for governor of Georgia in 2018.
Whitley would be joining what’s expected to be a very crowded field on the Republican side. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp are only a few of the names likely to be on the GOP primary ballot.
Whitley is a Georgia native. His career as a U.S. attorney is somewhat unusual in that he was appointed twice, serving territory that covers two-thirds of the state: Once by Ronald Reagan to run the office in Macon, then the Atlanta office – an appointment by George H.W. Bush.
He was also the first general counsel for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush. Whitley currently specializes in corporate investigation issues at the Baker Donelson law firm and is a shareholder in the Atlanta and Washington offices.
Prosecutors have had luck in Georgia politics before – witness Bob Barr, who parlayed a stint as U.S. attorney in the Northern District to a seat in Congress.
Whitley’s federal service would give him access to funding sources outside the state, which would be essential when rivals have solid state Capitol connections.
But here’s where Whitley’s background gets interesting: The attorney was retained by Georgia Equality last year to make the legal argument against H.B. 575, the “religious liberty” bill that Gov. Nathan Deal eventually vetoed.
A LGBT-friendly gubernatorial candidate would be an interesting turn for a Republican party that has shown some interest in diversifying its base.