ATLANTA – Georgia and Wyoming began choosing replacements Tuesday for two longtime Republican congressmen who died this year after being diagnosed with cancer.
Both seats are expected to remain in GOP hands, though Georgia's wide field of candidates and low voter turnout could inject some uncertainty into the special election to replace the late Rep. Charlie Norwood.
If none of the 10 candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote in Norwood's northeast Georgia district, the top two will go to a July 17 runoff.
In Wyoming, rather than a special election, state law allows the party's central committee to select three nominees from which the governor must choose a temporary replacement for Sen. Craig Thomas, who died June 4.
The committee heard brief introductory speeches Tuesday morning from 28 hopefuls. From that group, 10 were chosen for another round of speeches, with the top five of those to be put to an extended question-and-answer session. The committee will then choose its three nominees.
Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, will have five days to name one of those three Republican-chosen nominees as Thomas' temporary replacement through 2008. A special election in November 2008 will determine who completes Thomas' term, which runs through 2012.
Thomas, 74, was diagnosed with leukemia last fall, a few days after he won his third term.
Norwood, a seven-term congressman, died Feb. 13 at age 65 after a battle with cancer and lung disease.
His district, which includes Athens and parts of Augusta, has voted Republican for more than a decade, and political analysts expect that trend to continue.
Former Republican state Sen. Jim Whitehead was considered the front-runner Tuesday for Norwood's seat since he won the backing of the party establishment and Norwood's family. Georgia's Democratic Party endorsed James Marlow, an Internet businessman who campaigned aggressively against Whitehead.