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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Georgia's U.S. Senate hopefuls race to the right

Ive yet to meet the man who wins my heart
The rumor mill for the 2014 U.S. Senate race has churned ever since last year's election ended. But with the primaries for the upcoming election now a year away, potential Republicans candidates - including U.S. Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, Jack Kingston, and Tom Price - have started to boast their conservative colors even more so than usual.

This morning, Politico dissected the potential frenzy surrounding the open seat left by Sen. Taxby Saxby "I'm-not-gay-so-I'm-not-going-to-marry-one" Chambliss, who said in January he would not seek re-election. At the moment, only Broun has officially announced his candidacy, but others will soon join the fray. His likely Congressional opponents - gearing up against his outspoken far-right conservatism - could start altering their own agendas as the race picks up.

"As a practical matter, none of us wants to get on the left of the other one," Kingston told Politico. "You might watch someone out of the corner of your eye, but that is not going to be the central reason to support it or not."

Gingrey said he stuck by his conservative voting record, and Price has indicated elsewhere that he could be the levelheaded GOP candidate. Nevertheless, Politico writers Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan point out that the upcoming primary race has already stirred up commotion with GOP leaders at the national level:

Senate seats don't come up too often, especially in a red state like Georgia, so primaries are contentious. And in this one, all of the candidates are seeking to run to the right of each other. How they vote on important legislation, from their party's budget to the debt ceiling hike and the sequester, is being closely watched and could be used against them in a primary.

One of the first signs of trouble was a vote earlier this month on the continuing resolution to keep the government funded beyond March 27. Broun initially told GOP leaders, including Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), he was leaning toward supporting the bill.

But not only did he ultimately vote against the bill, but he also opposed the procedural motion to bring the bill to the floor - a nearly unheard of move by a member of the majority in House politics because it jeopardizes leadership's control of the floor.

The dominoes then began to fall. Kingston and Gingrey ended up voting against both the procedural motion and the resolution itself. Price voted in favor of the rule and the CR.

Next up was the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act, a job-training bill promoted by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and sponsored by North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx. Broun told Foxx he would support the legislation, sources said, but then voted against the bill only after all other Georgia Republicans voted for it.

As Peach Pundit noted this morning, Karen Handel and David Perdue, the cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, may also enter the race for the open Senate seat. There's already been talk about Handel, the former Georgia secretary of state and one-time GOP gubernatorial candidate. As for Perdue, he has never been elected for a political position, but he is a former CEO of several companies.

Don't expect the madness to die down anytime soon. It'll take a while before anyone has a clear picture regarding who actually will face off against Broun. But rest assured, the Athens congressman will be closely watched along the way.

On the Democratic side, Congressman John Barrow, D-Augusta, seems to be the only candidate to consider a run for the open seat. Mayor Kasim Reed and state Sen. Jason Carter, D-Atlanta, so we've heard, have ruled out running.

But with four Republican congressmen vying to become a U.S. Senator, could a Democratic candidate steal one of their seats? Maybe.

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