Today’s Courier Herald Column:
With Senator Saxby Chambliss announcing his retirement, much of Georgia’s political landscape will undergo a seismic shift over the next two years. While the surprise of the initial news has worn off, the aftershocks will continue to reverberate for months to come as candidates test the waters for various potential races.
Congressman Paul Broun is the first and only announced candidate thus far for the U.S. Senate. While he was expected to be quickly joined by Congressman Tom Price, Price instead sent out word Monday that he will be focused on Washington budget negotiations through May, and he’ll have plenty of time to decide if he is running or not then.
Fellow Congressmen Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston are said to also be seriously considering the race, with each taking steps behind the scenes to position themselves as a candidate as well as testing the fundraising waters for such a competition.
Price opting to delay a decision has put new focus on whether former Secretary of State Karen Handel will take another look at the US Senate race. It had been largely assumed she would be looking at Price’s 6th district seat but the delay combined with her need to begin fundraising to catch up to Congressmen with $1 Million in the bank may force a decision from her earlier than Price has indicated he will make his.
Her initial fundraising disadvantage could be matched with the fact that she is the only one of those listed above who has run a statewide race, as well as the fact that she is not burdened with an incumbent’s record in Congress.
As is the case when dominoes fall, folks are wasting little time in determining who will run for the “safe” Republican seat left open by Broun’s departure. Former State Senator and current Newton County Commissioner John Douglas was first to announce, taking his cue from Broun’s wife’s pre-announcement and getting in the race for GA-10 before Broun made his exit official.
In between his tenure at the State Senate and County Commission, Douglas also ran for the State’s Public Service Commission, losing in a runoff to PSC Commissioner Tim Echols. Echols name too has been floated as a possibility for this seat, though Georgia’s “resign to run” law would require him to leave the PSC post if he were to make a run at Congress.
Douglas is from the part of Georgia 10 that is exurban Atlanta. It’s worth noting that the 2012 district that re-elected Paul Broun isn’t nearly the same district anchored in the social conservative dominant Northeast Georgia mountains. Instead, it runs from just East of Atlanta, taking in part of Athens and it’s Republican-rich Oconee County suburbs, and runs east to the Republican suburbs of Augusta in Columbia County.
In the middle is Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair – with well-heeled donors that may not be aligned with a candidate from any of the district’s diverse population centers. Colleges of the University of Georgia and Georgia College and State University should be able to supply a ready source of College Republicans to fuel campaigns.
Other candidates will certainly enter. Columbia County Tea Party activist Brian Slowinski has announced a campaign. From the more establishment wing of the Republican Party, State Senator Bill Coswert is said to be preparing a run. Cowsert was more recently being introduced around the State Capitol as the next President Pro Tem before his Senate peers neglected to actually elect him to that post.
Other names being talked up from the Augusta side of the district is State Representative Ben Harbin, vice chairman of the appropriations committee, and former Augusta Mayor Bob Young. Some looking at GA-10 may also consider a run for John Barrow’s seat in GA-12.
It remains unclear at this time if Barrow will be the incumbent candidate for that seat, or if he will be the Democratic challenger seeking to replace Saxby Chambliss. Should Barrow decide to make the move up, expect that Republicans will find their difficulty recruiting candidates for GA-12 to fade considerably.