By most accounts, Senator Saxby Chambliss is being driven from office by the tea party, a dysfunctional congress and a hyper-partisan President Obama. This triangle of frustration leads the senator to prefer sipping whiskey on the back porch to six to eight more years of Washington politics. One can sympathize.
It also clears the decks for a host of ambitious Georgians to seek higher office. An open U.S. Senate seat is like an unexpected gift dropped in one’s lap. It wasn’t expected. It also gives the tea party forces in Georgia an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is. Can they do it? Can they seize the opportunity and elect one of their own, or will they slip into irrelevance by 2014/2016?
And there are a ton of Georgia Republicans considering their futures today. Congressman Tom Price was considering a run already – this could make the decision much easier for him. Unless he decides, as Newt Gingrich did 21 years ago, that the House leadership provides him a better path to national influence. Then there are several other congressional Republicans thinking of making the leap: Westmoreland, Gingrey, Graves, Broun, Kingston, etc.
Each elected official who becomes a candidate for Chambliss’ seat opens the path for others to run for those positions – thus setting off a chain reaction. All the political campaign consultants in the state and region are probably spending at least part of the morning pricing new luxury cars and boats.
As for the tea party, their best bet is Congressman Tom Graves. Yes, he’s fairly new to Congress, but he’s smart, tough, and loved by the tea party. And unlike his colleague from Athens, Congressman Paul Broun (also a tea party fav), he won’t remind people of 2012 GOP senate candidate Todd Akin and he won’t sound like Heinrich Himmler’s grandson.
Other Republicans to watch in the coming days: Secretary of State Sam Olens, former Guv Sonny Perdue and Lt. Guv Casey Cagle. If Tom Price goes for it, my betting is that Karen Handel is a sure candidate for his U.S. House seat.
The Democrats’ best hope? Their best chance is that the Republicans nominate a tea party candidate unacceptable to general election voters. No, Kasim Reed will not take the leap just yet – he’s likely gunning for the governor’s mansion in 2018 or a U.S. House seat. That leaves Congressman John Barrow or State Sen. Jason Carter.
At least it has given us politicos something to talk about.