Baptist publisher Cecil Staton Wednesday afternoon appeared headed for a fall election pitting him against a fellow Baptist in his bid for the Georgia State Senate.
Staton, president of Smyth & Helwys Publishing in Macon, Ga., led physician Meg Nichols in Tuesday’s state primary. With 95 percent of precincts counted, Staton led his Republican opponent 5,954-4,967, or 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent, according to returns posted online by Georgia’s secretary of state.
Staton, who also owns a second publishing company and a radio network, would face Ben Taylor in the general election. Taylor, an ordained minister who serves on staff at First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, receive 5,861 votes while running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Staton, 46, in his second run for public office, received endorsements of both the Macon Telegraph and big-name politicians including two U.S. Congressmen. He also received a $2,000 campaign contribution from Sen. Zell Miller.
“I was surprised to get a financial contribution from Zell Miller,” Staton said in the Macon Telegraph July 15. “I’m one of only three Republicans he’s supporting.” Last fall Staton’s second publishing company, Stroud & Hall, published Miller’s book, A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat.
Staton told the Macon newspaper he was prompted to run after encountering layers of government red tape in his small businesses.
“We are concerned over the life our children will inherit,” Staton said. “For me, I liken it to a calling.”
The article said Staton has always been interested in politics, and as a child he used to hang out at Richard Nixon’s campaign headquarters next to his father’s shoe-repair shop in Greenville, S.C.
In 2002, Staton lost a big for Congress after running as a conservative against Phil Gingrey in the Republican primary for Georgia’s 11th Congressional seat.
His opponent in this fall’s election, Ben Taylor, 46, is minister of education and administration at First Baptist Church of Macon. Taylor was twice moderator of the Macon Baptist Association of Churches and served more than a decade on the Monroe County school board.
Smyth & Helwys is a for-profit company started by Staton and others in 1990 as an alternative religious press for moderate Baptists disenfranchised by a fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is listed among “partner” organizations by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and claims a customer base of 3,000 churches.
Company officials say Staton is no longer involved in day-to-day operation of Smyth & Helwys and that the company is unrelated to his political involvement. In his run for Congress, however, Staton contributed $521,000 to his own campaign, money presumably earned from his combined business ventures.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.