Charlie Harper: 2014 starting to shape up

February 1, 2013 

Congressman Paul Broun's wife made a statement at a Gwinnett County meeting of political activists saying that Broun was a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Broun was in attendance -- as was Karen Handel, the featured speaker for the group as well as a potential rival.

Handel's ultimate decision likely depends on the decision of Congressman Tom Price, who appeared to be preparing for a quick announcement to run for the Senate on Friday, but now has slowed his timetable somewhat. With other congressmen such as Jack Kingston and Phil Gingrey also taking a serious look, it appears that the fundraising base that those in Congress would share diminishes with each additional entrant.

Each congressman also has his potential weakness that could cause apprehension to give up a safe seat for an attempt to become a senator. Kingston is from a part of the state that receives virtually no coverage in the Atlanta media market, which reaches more than half of Georgia's voters and a disproportionate share of Republican primary voters.

He would also be walking away from 20 years of seniority and a key position on the Appropriations Committee - and a shot at being chairman in the very near future. It would likely take another 20 years in the Senate for Kingston to match that level of power. That said, those same connections allow him to raise money quickly and he would be a serious candidate if he decides to make this move. He is said to have an exploratory committee and is putting out quiet requests to begin fundraising.

Seniority would also be an issue for Gingrey, as he will be turning 73 within a few days of the Republican primary. As senators don't usually get key committee assignments/positions until well into their second term, Gingrey would be in his 80s before hitting his stride in the Senate.

Price, meanwhile, is not likely to have the support of Gov. Nathan Deal in the primary, a lingering chill from when Price was the only member of Georgia's Republican congressional delegation who did not support Deal for governor when he left Congress to join the GOP primary. He has made significant inroads with the Tea Party/non-establishment crowd, however, but Broun's entry into the race may take some of that support away as well.

The person sitting back, smiling, is Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle. One of 2010's top vote getters, Cagle already has a standing statewide political network as well as a solid internal victory to regain much of his powers stripped of him two years ago by the Georgia Senate. Reports say Cagle has a poll in the field to determine his support. If this move is made, it significantly changes Georgia's political landscape at a magnitude almost equal to Chambliss' decision.

The lieutenant governor's position is viewed by many as the on-deck circle for the Governor's Office. Cagle briefly entered the 2010 governor's race but later withdrew citing medical issues. While he appears to have fully recovered from his back issues, some eyeing a 2018 governor's race when Nathan Deal is term-limited believe that either Cagle won't run, or they can successfully run against him.

If the lieutenant governor's office is open in 2014, however, virtually anyone looking to run for governor in four years would have to take a serious look at the lieutenant governor's race.

And, of course, given that many of these people currently hold office, this would create even more open seats to be contested throughout the state.

Saxby Chambliss may have done more to help Georgia's unemployment rate by announcing his retirement than any other elected official. If there's a political consultant in this state who is unemployed three months from now, they're just not trying hard enough. The abundance of candidates and campaigns will be plentiful.

Charlie Harper, author and editor of the Peach Pundit blog, writes on Georgia politics and government; www.peachpundit.com.

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