Saturday May 28th, 2016 4:05AM

The 'Gainesville Gang'

By by Ken Stanford
When the morning of November 8 rolls around, we could wake up and find that the three of the top elected spots in state government are held by people with direct ties to Gainesville: Cathy Cox, Casey Cagle and Bill Stephens.

All three, of course, must first get by the July primaries, as each has opposition from within their own party for the offices they seek - Governor, Lt. Governor, and Secretary of State, respectively.

Cox, a native of Bainbridge, Georgia, down near where Georgia, Florida and Alabama come together, was a wet-behind-the-ears, fresh-out-of-journalism-school newspaper reporter in Gainesville when I met her. She drew the police beat and became one of those "I'll-get-up-and-go-to-the-scene-no-matter-what-time-it-is" reporters. So dedicated was she to her job that she once told me she slept with a police scanner next to her bed! I've been in this business going on 40 years and love a good story as much as the next reporter. But, sleeping with a scanner on next to the bed? However, it paid off for Cathy numerous tmes.

There she would be in the middle of the night, note pad and camera in hand. Ours was a friendly competition and I missed her once she decided to go back to school to study law. The next thing I knew, she was in the Georgia House of Representatives, then Assistant Secretary of State, and now Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for Governor.

Bill Stephens was a Democrat but is now a Republican - a state Senator from Canton. I got to know Bill when he was in banking in Gainesville at the old Home Federal Savings and Loan Association. He's a native of northeast Georgia - Fannin County - and a graduate of Gainesville College.

He left banking to become Director of Communications and spokesman for Governor Zell Miller from 1989 to 1991 and was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1998 and now serves as Senate Majority Leader - and is running for the office Cathy Cox is giving up to run for Governor.

Casey Cagle is a Hall County native and has been a Republican as long as I've known him - which is eleven years. I met him when he first ran for public office - the one he now holds, state Senator. I've not known him as long as I have Cox and Stephens. I've been covering news in this town for about 35 years and during that time I don't recall us ever having a current resident seeking one of the top two offices in the state. Lewis Massey is a Gainesville native and his parents still live here but when he ran for Governor a few years ago he was living in Atlanta.

When I heard that Casey was going to run for Lt. Governor, I couldn't help but recall the headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the early 1970s which read "Jimmy Carter is running for what?" It appeared on the morning after he announced he was going to run for president. But, as we all know, Carter had the last laugh and the same may be true of Casey come November.

Governor Cathy Cox? Lt. Governor Casey Cagle? Secretary of State Bill Stephens?

The Gainesville Gang.

Stay tuned.

(Ken Stanford is the News Director for Gainesville radio stations WDUN NEWS TALK 550, SPORTS RADIO 1240 THE TICKET, and MAGIC 1029 and is Editor of

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