Republican officials say conservative activist Ralph Reed (R) would start with a significant base of support if he decides to run for Congress. "Ralph Reed has a lot of supporters in Gwinnett County," said Charles Efstration, chairman of the county's Republican Party.

Gwinnett , which is within commuting distance to Atlanta, now hosts 78 percent of the population of Georgia's 7th district, according to the Almanac of American Politics.

Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) announced last weekend he won't seek a 10th House term. His departure touched off a flurry of speculation about possible successors. Reed is mulling whether to run, said Efstration.

"I have no reason to believe that he is not taking this seriously," he said. "I think that an opening like this is something that somebody with Ralph Reed's experience would very likely look at."

There are two Republican candidates already in the race. State Sen. Don Balfour (R) and state Rep. Clay Cox (R) are beginning to make the rounds. They may soon have company, Efstration said.

"I have received emails from people that are interested in it, a lot of people that haven't been elected to office before," he said. "Certainly this is going to be an exciting campaign year."