Potential Challengers Looking At Saxby’s Seat

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

National pundits are falling all over themselves trying to establish who will be in the Presidential horse race for 2016.  Meanwhile in Congress, those elected in 2010 are still trying to solve the fiscal cliff before the new year and the class of 2012 take over.  Yet with much remaining to be done, Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss continues to try to reach a Gang of 60 from his Gang of 6.

At the same time, he’s now watching his back.  The race for 2014, when Chambliss will stand for re-election, is forming now.

Joshua Miller of Roll Call, the insider’s newspaper of Capitol Hill, frames the race rather nicely in a story posted Monday evening.  In it he calls Chambliss “arguably the senator most exposed to a primary challenge.”  He quotes conservative activists such as the TEA Party Patriots Debbie Dooley as saying Chambliss is “not very popular among conservatives in the grass roots”.  Virginia Galloway was a bit more harsh, stating “sometimes when he sees himself being a statesman, conservatives see him as being a sellout.”

Those are tough words for a two term Senator who was once the darling of Republicans when he managed to take away a Democratic U.S. Senate seat from former Senator Max Cleland.  Chambliss was virtually anointed by George W. Bush in his first Senate Republican primary and handily defeated longtime Republican activist Bob Irvin as Republican leaders and grassroots fell in line behind the President.  Now, 12 years later, many of those activists appear restless, and are more circumspect than appreciative of the word “seniority”.

Sixth District Congressman Tom Price of Roswell is the subject of the most speculation as to the person who would primary Chambliss.  A Medical Doctor who has been at the leader of the fight against the President’s health care reform law, Price recently lost his bid to become House Conference Chairman against a candidate backed by Speaker John Boehner – who is a close personal friend of Chambliss.

Price has spent the last couple of years positioning himself as an outsider in Washington, and to some extent here in Georgia as well.  He was the only Georgia Congressman who backed Karen Handel over Nathan Deal in the 2010 primary.  He more recently hired Herman Cain’s presidential press spokesperson Ellen Carmichael who works the TEA Party crowd through social media quite handily.  He rejected an offer from Boehner to take a ceremonial leadership position if he would end his challenge for the House Conference Chair, demonstrating he will stand up to authority.  All boosting his credibility with those who would consider supporting a primary challenge.

Price, however, has been mainstream enough in Congress that his candidacy would not likely be considered fringe, and thus not necessarily a threat to Republicans losing the seat to a yet unidentified Democrat in November.  But another possible Republican challenger has Democrats suddenly motivated to consider finding an “A-team” candidate in case this race develops along the lines of recent Senate races in Indiana and Missouri.

Congressman Paul Broun has also been sending some signals that he is considering a primary challenge.  Broun recently made news for a 45 minute speech at a sportsman’s dinner held at a district church where he proclaimed evolution as “lies from the pit of hell”.  Broun remains popular with social conservatives and strict constitutionalists.  His record could get him nominated as “Congressman most likely to vote no”.  He is the antithesis of Chambliss’ efforts to work across the aisle in efforts to solve large problems such as immigration reform and budget/deficit issues.

The race would be a study in contrast and likely determine the future of the Republican party in Georgia, but possibly give Democrats a jumpstart on rebuilding their party infrastructure, regardless if Broun were successful or not.

Is the Broun rumor credible?  Broun’s own office refuses to tamp it down.  In Miller’s Roll Call article we have the most concrete evidence yet that this is under strong consideration, via Broun Spokesperson Meridith Griffanti saying “Dr. Broun is not running for Senate at this time”.  “At this time” is a key non-denial statement of denial.

If Price or Broun chooses to run for U.S. Senate it will be Georgia’s headline political story for the next two years.  If both were to choose to run it could change much of Georgia’s political landscape, opening two safe Republican seats for competition and a myriad of lower level offices as the political dominoes begin to fall.

In the meantime, Chambliss and the rest of Congress have a week’s Thanksgiving break before a return to Washington and a four week grind to find solutions to the fiscal cliff.  World international markets are anxiously awaiting that outcome.  Georgia Republicans are watching closely too.  What it ultimately in that solution will likely determine if Chambliss is primaried, and if so, by whom.


  1. AMB says:

    Price. Broun? Are you kidding me? Are those two yahoos the absolute best that Georgia can produce to represent us to the rest of the country?
    Where are the Republican statesmen?

    • drjay says:

      the problem is saxby is one of the gop’s statesmen and this is how he is treated–the gop of today would rather lose with o’donnell or mourdock than win with lugar or castle–reagan used to say an 80% friend is not a 20% enemy–these days “tea partiers” say damn the torpedos in order to shoot off their feet with them…

        • drjay says:

          price would be fine and if saxby were to retire, i think he’d be a great senator, but i see no reason to tie up resources in a primary battle between the two–i guess i was refering more to broun in ga as far as the “lunatic fringe” goes, and how the gop has hampered its chances of success in other races recently…

          • joe says:

            “…tie up resources in a primary battle…”

            This is Georgia. The Senator will come from the GOP for the next several election cycles. I would prefer to see a primary challenge to give us an opportunity to decide who is best, not just accept on OK incumbent.

            • drjay says:

              “The Senator will come from the GOP for the next several election cycles.”

              that is not an assumption i would automatically make, demographic changes being what they are, and seriously, if we end up with broun as the nominee–somebody will manage to get sworn in in january and his name will be sen marshall or sen barra…

      • Bob Loblaw says:

        A’men. As long as the media keeps interviewing Virginia Galloway (i.e., bought and paid for by Koch Bros. money–that worked well for us on Election Day) and Debbie Dooley (God, where do I start) then “conservatives” will continue to be mislead and we will pull an Indiana and give up a statesman who is conservative and has represented us well.

        Please, members of the media: as long as the elected has an R by their name, call upon Republicans to offer their opinions. Stop this b.s. of calling upon unelected bomb-throwers. Sue Everhart is generally available as is a whole host of County Party chairs and elected officials.

        Indiana could get anything they wanted on Capitol Hill with Lugar. Think he had to lobby hard for anything? Saxby isn’t Lugar, but he’s serious. We need people that are serious right now.

        • Ken says:


          Virginia Galloway is only saying the same things she has said for years. It’s what she believes – and no, the Koch brothers are not seen as demons outside of a few pungent circles.

          • Bob Loblaw says:

            Saxby Chambliss is not a “sell out” and Galloway hasn’t been talking like that “for years”. She may think that now, but it sure is counterproductive. Paul Broun in the Senate? Really? Ask Galloway how that worked out in 1996–she was around.

            And I don’t think the Koch Bros. are demons either, just a couple of rich guys creating a pseudo-grassroots organization that blew a ton of cash and created nothing to show for it. Well, except a fat loss and a guaranteed uphill climb for all of their industries. When you throw a spear at a Giant, you better kill him. They whiffed.

            • Ken says:


              Check your selective vision. I didn’t refer to Saxby at all in that post. I was referring to your embarrassing statements.

              I also didn’t refer to Paul Broun. Your typical strawman strategy should be retired. It’s tiresome, distracts from the actual issues and is, quite frankly, overused by you.

              You also accuse people by giving motivation of which you have no proof. Leave the mindreading to the other phonies at the state fair sideshows.

      • seenbetrdayz says:

        Our ‘top statesman’?

        When drunken sailors get together and talk about money, I believe they use the phrase, ‘you spend money like a Georgia Senator’.

    • David C says:

      Much as I’d like to see the GA GOP piss a Senate seat away by nominating Paul Broun, the runoff rule should likely be enough to keep him out. In primaries, it usually gives the sane the chance to settle on one person to beat back the crooked or the crazy. See also Jones, Vernon, 2008.

      • southerncentrist says:

        The RNC rarely gets involved with state primaries, but I’m hoping the disasters that occured in Missouri and Indiana convinced them to rethink their “hands off” approach. In running ads against Akin’s primary opponents, the DNC helped ensure Missouri chose the weakest possible Republican candidate to run against McCaskill.

  2. Jackster says:

    I’d like to see a fiscally conservative candidate who also is Pro choice and Pro gay marriage.

    Is there anyone who even remotely comes close to those criteria?

    I’ve already been accused of living in a fantasy land quite a few times today, so while I’m here, I might as well go candidate shopping.

    • southerncentrist says:

      You should call Cleland and suggest he campaign to be the 2014 Democratic nominee. He and Saxby are the same age. One condition though – once the votes are in, and the winner declared, the loser and his supporters have to stop whining about a decade-old election.

      I commend Max Cleland for his service in Vietnam, but being a triple amputee doesn’t guarantee a man a seat in the US Senate. Especially when that man, less than a year after a massive terrorist attack on domestic soil, and knowing voters in his state lean more conservative than liberal, votes ELEVEN times against the Homeland Security Act.

      No one has ever questioned Cleland’s bravery or patriotism, only his judgment. Those eleven votes cost him his seat in the Senate, not Tom Perdue.

      • Ken says:

        I would argue that Cleland’s votes against SDI (“Star Wars” to the unwashed masses) at a time of Soviet aggression and votes against a ban on partial-birth abortions are at least as harmful as votes against the Homeland Security Act.

  3. IndyInjun says:

    Chambliss is a poster boy of financial chicanery, having voted for Gramm Leach Bliley and the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, then more recently whiffing at reform after the 2008 near-financial meltdown. He voted for TARP and he loved extend-and-pretend to the extent of monkeying with the FASB 157 accounting rules. The idjit even mused on C-Span that a derivative “can be a phone call.”

    You cannot be a fiscal conservative in my estimation if your votes turned the $US dollar into the equivalent of a bad gambling debt placed with a busted bookie that has to be papered over with 10x that amount in electronic money.

    That dolt is why the USA is gonna collapse, but goldbugs love him, one supposes……

  4. southerncentrist says:

    I’m certain Democrats are salivating at the opportunity to help create a 2014 Primary upset in Georgia. Like Missouri, Georgia has an open primary. The DNC, knowing Akin was a weak candidate prone to verbal gaffes which went unchallenged in his hyper-conservative House district, ran attack ads against Akin’s primary opponents. Once they had ensured Akin was on the ballot, the DNC just sat back and waited for the inevitable. You could tell he was shocked to discover how many voters outside his district didn’t share his beliefs.

    I predict the DNC will move heaven and earth to make Price or Broun the nominee and cross their fingers for an Akin 2.0 style defeat. If that happens, we Georgians have no one to blame but ourselves.

    • Charlie says:

      Democrats may wish to think twice before going after such a strategy. You may remember it was Democrats from Clark County that put Broun in office in the first place. Well, them and a really poorly run campaign saying something about coming to Athens and bringing hell with us.

      • John Konop says:

        I think you are right on a local level, put I would bet the national Democrats would love to have Sen. Broun front and center in the next presidential cycle. Tom Price and Saxby would not embarrasses the party on a national level, but Broun would be front and center on SNL, John Stewart……………… Broun would become a quote machine on policy…………………. The Clinton machine would need very little help from this guy making the GOP look like…………..I hope enough in the party see the problem…………..

        • southerncentrist says:

          Tom Price has a reputation for being an obstructionist – the kind of politician who is willing to throw the GOP out with the bathwater, and cause everyone pain, rather than work together with Democrats to solve problems. Price is well-liked by folks in his district, but his district (Roswell, Alpharetta, Canton) is hardly representative of the state as a whole. Plus, he’s very unpopular in Washington. John Boehner can’t stand him.

          • bgsmallz says:

            Price’s doesn’t include Canton anymore, but if we are trying to put the man into a 5 line paragraph those details don’t seem to matter much.

            Price’s district includes a large swath of DeKalb Co and Sandy Springs. He actually did quite well in DeKalb. Where he had trouble were districts heavy with Hispanic voters. Frankly, someone in the GOP needs to study those precincts and how the Dems were able to get the vote out in those areas. It’s pretty amazing and ended up killing the Chamblee annexation that was desired by a LARGE majority of single family homeowners by 34 votes. In 2008, Dresden Elem had 2,200 registered voters. Only 930 cast votes. In 2012, there were 1,600 votes in that precinct. 1,600!!!!

            That’s amazing. And literally decided the outcome of the Chamblee vote.

            Anyway, just from my armchair…I think Price could run against Saxby, but how anyone would fare is going to depend on the next 6-9 months of Saxby on the job moreso than who the candidate is. I also think the race to replace Price would be fascinating.

  5. xdog says:

    Chambliss was born in 43. Broun in 46, Price in 54. Does Chambliss want to stay in office until he’s 77?

    Assuming the answer is yes, I would think he’d be willing to pay Broun to run against him.

    • southerncentrist says:

      I haven’t read or heard anything that indicates Saxby intends to retire. I didn’t realize Price was a decade younger. They look the same age.

      • drjay says:

        i actually thought i had read somewhere that saxby might not be running for reelection, but i can’t remember where for the life of me–or maybe just wishful thinking…i don’t know…

        • It was “understood” by many in the Republican Party , based on comments that Sen. Chambliss made, that he would not be seeking re-election in 2014. The narrative seemed to change over the last two years, though. He is actively fundraising.

    • xdog says:

      “Chambliss and Boehner watching 24 together”

      Aw that’s cute. Two guys doing homework together. Chambliss preps for the intelligence committee and Boehner gets tips on reining in his caucus.

  6. Are the Democrats talking about a challenger? I know Rep. Barrow’s name has been mentioned in this neck of the woods, but I was not sure if his name is being mentioned statewide or even what kind of relationship that he has with Democrates outside of GA-12.

    • David C says:

      Short of Broun somehow getting nominated and throwing the seat away, the better Democratic bet is the Isakson seat in 2016. He’ll be 72 (don’t know if he’s looking to retire), he’s also had some trouble with the conservative grass roots that might spawn a primary challenge, and the Democratic demographics in GA are much more favorable in a Presidential year than in a midterm cycle. (See weak Deal 53 Barnes 43 vs. Romney 53 weak Obama 46)

      • Isakson has the appearance of distancing himself from Chambliss and is considered by many to be the more conservative. I don’t know if there is any rationale to it, but that is just what I have heard and observed among Party folks.

        I agree with your logic, though, with the midterm election. However, I will make the assumption that someone will be running as a Democrat. I am just curious if the GA Dems will run somebody or just accept whoever it may be that qualifies.

        • David C says:

          I’m sure they’ll find a some dude at least, like they did in ’04 with Majette, or ’08 when they actually came close with Martin (even though his job one was just keeping Vernon Jones from winning the nomination) who won’t embarrass the party too bad like those guys who wandered onto the ballot line for the Ds in SC and TN the last 2 cycles. But I don’t think it’ll draw someone you’d consider closer to the top tier, like Barrow, Jim Marshall, or Jason Carter. They might jump in ’16 though, depending on how the state is looking then.

    • IndyInjun says:

      I have been very reticent about Cain, but I think he would be a refreshing change versus Chambliss. Herman is certainly brighter and would liven things up.

        • Daddy Got A Gun says:

          I was a volunteer on his Senate Campaign against Johnny Isakson in ’04. I would love to get back on the Cain Train again! If he ran against Saxby, I believe the Hermanator would crush Saxby the TARP loving collaborator.

          But, I have a feeling Herman is done with politics. The press made sure the price is too high.

          Hopefully, we get some new blood to run against him. Someone outside the Beltway Elite.

  7. Ken says:

    The bottom line is that Saxby is vulnerable to the right candidate(s).

    He defeated Bob Irvin largely because Irvin was seen (fairly or unfairly) as a less conservative candidate and by the increasing number of Republicans voting in South Georgia. To be fair, Saxby’s election as a US Congressman from the 8th Congressional District is one of the major reasons for that increased GOP vote below the Gnat Line.

    Saxby is vulnerable for a number of reasons.

    1 – Saxby has proved tone deaf on a number of issues that are important to the conservative base, some of those coming very recently (e.g. It’s “fine” if General Petraeus doesn’t testify regarding Benghazi).

    2 – He has made a point of NOT building relationships among GOP party officials. That has been a consistent position of Saxby’s going back to his days in the US House. He has never seen the GOP as a partner or a valued resource based on his lack of interaction. Like many elected GOP officials (Paging Governor Deal, Governor Nathan Deal) he does not understand the workings of the Georgia GOP or why it’s important.

    3 – While moderates consider Saxby’s willingness to work with Democrats in the US Senate as a positive, the conservative base sees it as a sell-out position that undermined GOP principles and power. Cynics might point out that part of that outrage was because it undermined upcoming GOP issues in election years.

    4 – If you’re an elected official in Georgia and your name is linked too often with Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator John McCain, then it’s a cause for alarm and the dreaded “moderate” label will be applied – and, perhaps, rightly so.

    Saxby does; however, have a formidable warchest and he is an incumbent. In a GOP primary, those are invaluable tools. While Saxby Chambliss is vulnerable, he is not a sitting duck and woe be unto the challenger who forgets those two simple things.

    • Three Jack says:

      #2 – The one plus for Saxby, apparently ignoring GOP party officials. Yet he ran unopposed for re-election last time even though many conservatives were seeking an alternative…shows the power of GOP party officials.

      • Ken says:

        GOP officials don’t recruit candidates to run against GOP incumbents. You should know that.

        If there is a challenger, then that lack of a relationship will matter.

  8. Atlanta Rises says:

    The democrats can unseat Saxby Chambliss and defeat Nathan Deal if the following happens:
    I. They find a viable moderate candidate.
    II. The DNC sends money to Georgia to fire up the democratic base
    III. They start these efforts now.

    Keep in mind, Barack Obama is a liberal democrat that only lost by 8% in Georgia. That gap could be closed by a superior ground game in Atlanta alone.

    Congressman Sanford Bishop, is a moderate democrat, and his district is highly moderate. He has appeal to many Georgians. His district has more military personnel than any in Georgia. He is a supporter of the 2nd amendment. He’s a member of the sportsmen caucus and Vietnam war vet. He is African-American so he could fire up the democratic base also. If Georgia Democrats are not idiots, they should start getting his name out now and push him to run for governor or senate. He has the potential to maximize the democratic turnout and while stealing some of non-tea party and non-racist conservative base. If the GOP painted him as a liberal, it would simply be untrue.

    • Ken says:

      Sanford Bishop is a 20-year incumbent Black Democratic Congressman in a majority minority district that is the poorest in the state. A situation he appears to have done nothing to improve.

      He has no real financial or political base. His name recognition is poor statewide. He has no signature legislation to tout. What he does have is a series of minor scandals spanning several years.

      Please do get him to run for a statewide race. Michael Thurmond likely has better statewide name recognition than Bishop and a broader base of support.

      And there are votes (“Assault Weapons” ban, Obamacare, etc.) that could be used to demonstrate that your claim of “moderate” may not be as unassailable as you think.

      • Ken says:

        Omitted from the first paragraph, the last sentence was not included:

        Because of these things, unseating Bishop is nearly impossible unless he runs for statewide office.

  9. Three Jack says:

    Saxby goes back on tax pledge — http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2012/11/22/saxby-chambliss-%E2%80%98i-care-more-about-the-country-than-a-20-year-old-anti-tax-pledge%E2%80%99/?cxntfid=blogs_political_insider_jim_g

    Personally I could care less about pledges whether made to Norquist, the GOP or any other group. But in Saxby’s case, he has proven to be a free spender of OPM while also working with dems to raise tax rates. If he agrees to be part of a GOP contingent determined to raise taxes with no guarantee of spending cuts and comprehensive government reform, he might as well announce his retirement at the same time.

  10. James Fannin says:

    I’m a fan of both Tom Price and of Saxby Chambliss and believe they both should keep their day jobs. Tom Price represents the 6th District well. Yes, he backed Karen Handel over Nathan Deal which made sense to me since seventy-five percent of his constituents backed Karen including his most important constituent and most influential advisor – his wife Betty.

    I was amazed when Dr. Price walked away from his million dollar a year surgical practice to run for Congress and represent North Fulton and Cobb. He fought his way to Congress and he would be a good senator. Frankly in the next 10 years, his conservative principles, his medical expertise and judgment will be more important than ever as the nation comes to grips with nationalization of medical care with regulations written by community activists and lawyers.

    Saxby Chambliss is invaluable as well. Most Georgians are blissfully unaware that our biggest industry remains the United States military. For example, Warner Robins Air Logistics Center is Georgia’s largest industrial employer. With major installations like Ft.Benning, Ft. Stewart and Ft. Gordon all potentially impacted by defense drawdowns, it’s good to have both his knowledge and his seniority on the Armed Services Committee. This is not pork. Georgia is the best place to do most of the things that the military currently does in Georgia but when these downsizing decisions get made, there will be those in the White House who will want to make decisions based on blue state-red state calculations. They will want take missions from Georgia for political and not strategic reasons. It happens all the time. In that kind of a fight, I want Saxby Chambliss fighting for Georgia.

    Saxby has done a good job over the years in becoming an expert in military, intelligence and agriculture – all very important to Georgia and it is expertise that we would throw away at our own peril should Georgia Republicans choose another candidate in a primary.

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