By: Charlie Spalding
With this morning’s announcement of the retirement of Senator Saxby Chambliss, speculation has begun to swirl about potential replacements. Critics from the right had already suggested that the senior senator would face a primary challenge in 2014. As a result, some names have already been floated. However, with the seat now being vacated, it is possible that a greater number of candidates could enter what will likely become a crowded primary contest. Additionally, considering the state’s fluctuating demographics, the statewide election could be an opportunity for a Democratic upset. The state of Georgia is surely in for a very hotly contested primary and general election in 2014, and it is likely that the contests will be followed closely all around the country. Below is a list of potential candidates from both political parties:
Tom Price – A United States Representative for Georgia’s 6th congressional district, Price has served in Congress since 2005. Price, a Tea Party favorite, has already been considered to be a likely candidate to challenge Chambliss in a primary. With Chambliss’s retirement, Price’s run seems almost inevitable. Price has had somewhat of a falling out with House leadership after losing a bid for House committee chairman without the backing of Boehner and threatening to challenge the Speaker for the gavel. Although this never materialized, it is notable that Price clearly shows the ambition to elevate his political profile and has a formidable $1.6 million in cash on hand.
Jack Kingston – Kingston is certainly the most seasoned politician of the group considering a run for the vacated seat, having represented Georgia’s 1st congressional district in Washington since 1993. Kingston undoubtedly understands the dynamics of a statewide campaign, having flirted with a run for Georgia’s 2010 gubernatorial election. Kingston has over $1 million in cash on hand, and would be well equipped for a statewide election, having cultivated powerful name recognition in his 20 years in Congress. In the wake of Chambliss’s announcement, an email from his campaign office indicated that Kingston would be discussing ways to continue his service in the coming days.
Herman Cain – After a failed presidential bid, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain signed on to be Neil Boortz’s replacement to fill the conservative talk radio void in Atlanta. Although Cain would likely be a favorite in the race, and would have very powerful fundraising potential and name recognition, he has indicated that he is not interested in the position. A new, lucrative radio contract and a poignant memory of having his dirty laundry strung out to dry in the Republican primary may have been factors in this decision. However, Cain has developed a bit of a reputation for the theatrical and a flair for the dramatic, so it is impossible to definitively rule him out.
Karen Handel – Handel was elected as Georgia’s second-ever female Secretary of State in 2006. She later vacated the position to focus on a 2010 gubernatorial bid. Despite winning a plurality in the initial primary, Handel lost by less than 2,500 votes in a runoff to Nathan Deal. Handel suffered greatly in the runoff as a result of the revelation of her membership in the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay-rights group. Handel denied the accusations, but they were later verified by an Atlanta Journal Constitution investigation. Handel would also face questions about her controversial resignation from the Susan G. Komen foundation.
Paul Broun (dark horse) – Athens’ own Paul Broun has served in Congress since a special election in 2007. Although Broun is relatively new to Washington, he has recently made headlines with controversial comments about science and President Obama’s loyalty to the Constitution. Broun would face an uphill battle in fundraising, particularly since he comes from a relatively less affluent district and has only $165,149 in cash on hand.
Kasim Reed – Reed won a four-year term as mayor of Atlanta after a tightly contested runoff election in 2010. He is widely considered a rising star in the Democratic Party and has developed close ties with the White House, particularly during the last election cycle. Reed has also been recognized for his ability to work across the aisle, most evident in his unsuccessful efforts to pitch T-SPLOST, the transportation special purpose local option sales tax, with Republican Governor Nathan Deal. In a November interview, Reed indicated a desire to be a two-term mayor, but it is not incomprehensible to imagine him seizing a chance to go to Washington. However, it is more likely that he would run simultaneous with a presidential election in 2016.
John Barrow – John Barrow won a convincing victory to a fourth term in office after defeating Republican Lee Anderson by almost 20,000 votes despite running in a heavily Republican district. Barrow has wide bipartisan appeal and would be a formidable opponent in a statewide race, particularly because of his ability to both turn out the Democratic base and sway significant numbers of centrist Republicans. As a senator, Barrow would have the luxury of avoiding continued efforts to unseat him. Barrow’s campaign chest is relatively small after a bruising 2012 election, but his history of success in Republican-heavy areas may encourage greater support from national Democratic organizations. Perhaps Barrow’s biggest advantage is his savvy campaign staff, widely praised for their clever ad campaign in the 2012 election.