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Paul Broun Gaffe-Free; Bill Cowsert Bows Out (UPDATED)

No news is good news for U.S. Senate candidate Paul Broun.

Broun, Athens’ Republican congressman, spoke at an Athens GOP meeting Monday night and stayed strictly on message, showing the kind of discipline he’ll need to win the 2014 primary. No “lies from the pit of hell.” No “Obama is like Hitler.” Just lots of talk about reining in out-of-control federal spending. He repeated his New York Times op-ed from last month almost verbatim.

Broun called for eliminating the U.S. Department of Education and its “fat cat bureaucrats” who, he said, make an average of $103,000 a year (in Washington, D.C., one of the nation’s most expensive cities, it should be noted). “And while we’re at it, let’s close down the department of EPA,” he added. “It’s killing jobs!”

Both comments drew applause from the audience of about 50 people, as did a statement on Afghanistan that shows just how much the country has changed since Republicans (and most Democrats) were clamoring for war 11 years ago.

Broun said he visited Afghanistan in August as a doctor in the Navy Reserve. “It convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt, we need to get out of Afghanistan as quickly as we can, because it’s a waste of money,” he said.

Earlier in the evening, Jackson County GOP Chairman Ron Johnson stumped for a job as second vice chairman of the state party on a platform of conservative unity. “You might only agree with 70 percent of what (candidates) say, but that’s better than what we have in office right now,” he said.

When conservatives bad-mouth candidates who don’t march in lockstep, it hurts the party, Johnson said. Democrats “sit back and see what we say about our candidates, then use it against us,” he said.

If he keeps making Todd Akin-style gaffes, Broun has the potential to be that type of candidate. The Chris Cilliza, who runs the political blog The Fix at the Washington Post, rated Georgia’s Senate race No. 10 in the country because Broun and Rep. Phil Gingrey “are both on the list of candidates who national Republicans would rather not nominate.” 

Meanwhile, state Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) told a Walton County Republican gathering Monday night that he won’t be running for Broun’s House seat. It came as a surprise because Cowsert had shown all the signs of running. He told Z Politics:

After many long discussions with my family and law partners, I have decided that I will not seek the Republican nomination for the 10th Congressional District in Georgia.”

“I have always had a desire to serve my community in public office.  Serving my friends and neighbors in the 46th Senate District has been a great honor.  Serving the hardworking citizens of the 10th Congressional District would have been an even greater honor.  However, we must always strike a balance between public service and serving the needs of one’s family, and family must always come first.”

“I have spent 30 years building a successful law practice that I would have to close down if elected to Congress.  With a child still in college, it is not the right time to make such a dramatic change.  After a great deal of reflection, I am confident that the best way to balance my desire for public service and the responsibilities I have as a husband and father is to continue to serve in the State Senate.”

“The support and encouragement over these last several months has been encouraging, and I will be forever indebted to those who prayed on my behalf and helped me to finally come to this decision.  I will be running for re-election to the State Senate for District 46 in 2014.  I look forward to supporting our Republican nominee for Congress and continuing to work to get our country back on the right path to fiscal responsibility.”

Columbia County tea party activist Brian Slowinski has already announced, and other potential candidates include Stephen Simpson (who lost to Broun in 2012), state Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) and former congressman Mac Collins.

Given his fundraising prowess and Atlanta connections, not to mention the fact that he already represents a quarter of the 10th District, Cowsert would have been a prohibitive favorite.

UPDATE: The AJC reports that Rep. Donna Sheldon (R-Dacula) has declared. Dacula is on the far western fringe of the district.