Caldwell Promises to be Citizen Legislator
The 22-year-old winner of the House District 20 Republican primary came close to beating four-time incumbent Rep. Charlice Byrd in 2010.
Republican Michael Caldwell credits his win for the Republican nomination for the State House District 20 seat, to transparency in campaign finances and his promise to seek term limits for the General Assembly.
"We ran a campaign like no other," Caldwell said Tuesday during a telephone interview. "We did not take any lobbyist money and no out-of-state contributions."
In addition to mandated disclosures Caldwell posted a running list of contributions and expenses on his campaign website.
"We decided to hold ourselves to a higher standard," Caldwell said.
As for the promise to seek term limits, Caldwell said he has a draft of legislation that would require members of the House to sit out a term after eight years in office.
"It would allow four consecutive two-year terms then require an incumbent to take two years off," he said. "That both removes the incumbency advantage and when they take two years off they have the experience of being an average citizen."
Caldwell defeated Rep. Charlice Byrd with 5,093 votes compared to the Byrd's 4,452, or 53.36 percent to 46.64 percent, according to returns.
This was Caldwell's second try for the House seat held by the four-term incumbent Byrd. Caldwell had challenged Byrd in the July 2010 primaries but lost with 46 percent of the votes.
The Republican Caldwell faces Democrat Lillian Burnaman in the November election. Burnaman ran unopposed and received 824 votes Tuesday.
Caldwell is married to Katie Caldwell and grew up in District 20. He graduated from Cherokee County schools and from Kennesaw State University with a bachelor's in finance. He works for Python Safety and sells safety equipment to the nuclear power industry.
Caldwell, 22, said his age was a factor when he first began campaigning, but that over the course of the campaign as he attended county and city government meetings and knocked on some 5500 doors of likely Republican voters it became less so.
"Clearly, at 22 years old I'm not your typical candidate," he said. "But, I've always done everything early. At 14 I hand copied the entire New Testament, at 17 I went to Kennesaw College and graduated in two years and at 20 I ran for house and ended with 46 percent (of the vote)."
Caldwell said he did not have money for television ads or radio spots, but did purchase "a whole mess of signs" and Caldwell’s social media following on sites such as Facebook and Twitter are the highest of any candidate for the state House in Cherokee County.
Byrd served on five House committees: Vice Chairman of Children and Youth, Economic Development and Tourism, Health and Human Services, Judiciary Non-Civil and Secretary of Science and Technology.
Byrd said Tuesday that she has "absolutely no plans" for future elective office, but will take many fond memories from her eight years in office.
"It has certainly been an honor to serve in the General Assembly and I have truly been blessed by the many people I have met and been able to help along the way," Byrd said.
"Some people don't realize the things that we are called upon to do other than pass bills," she said. "Most of the time it's the last straw to call your state legislator and there have been many times I've been able to help and truly blessed to be able to help my community."
Legislatively, Byrd said she is most proud of having twice introduced a government sunset bill to require periodic efficiency reviews of state agencies and departments. Both times the bill was “overwhelmingly passed by the House and the Senate” and then vetoed, first by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2008 and Gov. Nathan Deal earlier this year, she said.
“This year the Governor wanted to add language that the bill would be implemented subject to appropriations and both houses refused to use his language because then he could have said there was no funding for the process,” she said.
Byrd and her husband, Michael, have lived in Woodstock for 15 years and are members of the First Baptist Church of Woodstock. Byrd said her only immediate plans are to "enjoy my retirement."