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LITHONIA, Ga. -- He is one of the few undeniably popular politicians in DeKalb County: A sheriff who has easily won election four times and has avoided scandal.

When Thomas Brown announced Wednesday that he wants to run for Congress, he had sixty supporters behind him.

"I do want to go to Congress," Brown said while withholding his official candidacy as he gauges financial and political support

Brown has his eyes on a seat now held by fellow Democrat Hank Johnson -- a four term congressman.

"Imagine, Mr. Speaker, a world without balloons," Johnson intoned in the well of the House of Representatives in April, spoofing what he decried as a meaningless debate on the nation's helium reserve.

With a streak of humor drier than a desert, Johnson has become a bit of a star on C-span and YouTube.

Some, such as a remark he made in which he suggested Guam could "capsize" have made Johnson a target of ridicule around the world. But Brown says it's not what's making him a target at home.

"I'm not running on his position on Guam. I'm running on being an effective leader for the fourth district," Brown said, citing the district's needs in education and transportation.

Brown says his fundraising prowess in the next few weeks will help him make a final decision on his congressional candidacy. He has to like what he sees so far. Johnson has a fraction of the cash-on-hand in his campaign bank account that most Georgia congressmen have.

In reports filed this month, Johnson reported having $58,417 in his campaign coffers. Brown's campaign bank account isn't that far behind at $46,459.46.

Many of Brown's backers are one-time Johnson backers. "I think Hank Johnson is a very good person and has acquitted himself well in Congress," said Steen Miles, a former state senator from DeKalb. "But when I go shopping, I'm going for the best. And I know what I want, and that person would be Tom Brown."

Through a spokesman, Johnson said "I have a strong record and I look forward to running on my record. We need a strong Democrat to continue representing the Fourth District."

Brown's backers want him to make his candidacy official soon. The primary is less than a year away.

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