The first serious indication I got from Sen. Saxby Chambliss that he wasn’t planning to run for re-election next year came two weeks ago, during an interview at his local office in Cobb County. I put some of it in my write-up of the meeting, and I could have written a whole column about his mixed feelings about running for a third term in the Senate. But I had to balance space considerations (that piece was for the print edition of the AJC) and interest in what the “Gang of Six” member had to say about the fiscal cliff, debt ceiling, etc., so I kept the re-election talk in my column limited and placed at the end. Plus, he gave me no reason to believe he’d announce his intentions for 2014 so soon.
Looking back, and in light of his statement today that he’s leaving due in largest part to “frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress,” I thought I’d publish his entire remarks about whether he’d run and how he’d arrive at the decision:
ON WHETHER HE’S GOING TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION:
What I’m doing right now, what I do at the end or beginning of every election cycle, we’re evaluating where we are and what our goals are. And the difference … this is an eight-year decision for me. It’s two years plus six years. That’s a lot different form a two-year decision. And if I thought the next eight years were going to be filled with contentious debates and the wrong way to govern that we have just gone through in the last two months, it would have a significant impact on my decision. But yeah, right now my plans are to run.
We’re in good shape financially from a campaign standpoint. Got a lot more money to raise, but we’ll do that. …
First of all, I’ve never backed off from a fight. And I’ve never backed off from my principles of trying to solve problems. Anytime you do that, then you’re going to create controversy. You can’t govern in the way you have to govern under our Constitution without antagonizing or making folks unhappy with you. I don’t worry about that. Obviously I’d love to have everybody happy with me, but I could go up and vote no on everything and you wouldn’t see the opposition activity that is stirring around out there now. But I’m not going to do that. I’m going to do what I think’s right for the country. When I voted for TARP in ‘08, it was the right thing to do. And people are still upset about that. But what they fail to realize is what both Johnny [Isakson] and I said when we voted for it: In the long run, this will not only settle down the financial community, but we’ll [the government] make money. And we’ve made money on TARP. It was kind of a no-brainer back then. And as things have gone forward from that on the other issues that folks have gotten upset about, it was the right thing to do.
So I don’t worry about that — well, I say I don’t worry about that: Obviously you always worry about your political future. But the thing that’s really been encouraging to me, with all the activity stirring around, I have people now instead of stopping me in the grocery store and saying, ‘Let me tell you about my problem,’ they stop me wherever I am and say, ‘Look, we’re reading all this stuff, just know we’ve got your back — those of us who are by far the majority are behind you and appreciate what you’re doing, we just don’t talk to the press or pick up the phone and call you.’
And on the fiscal cliff issue, it’s pretty easy to tell when somebody calls your office whether it’s been generated by an email or something because they’ll reading a script. And by far, the negative comments we got, folks were reading a script.
So, when you take it all into account — I mean, I’m flying back to D.C., I [went] back last week, I had six people stop me in the airport who just, I didn’t know any one of ‘em. But they just came over and said, ‘Look, we just want you to know we appreciate your vote the other day, we appreciate what you’re doing.’ You know, that just doesn’t happen regularly. [Earlier that week] at Lillian Lewis’s funeral, I had five or six people come up and say the same thing. And I’ve had offers of fund raisers from around the country, as well as around the state, from folks, some of whom had never supported me before, because they appreciate doing the right thing. So at the end of the day, we’ll be fine. But we’re going to think things through like we always do, but I think I know what the answer is.
ON WHETHER GRIDLOCK IN WASHINGTON WOULD BE ENOUGH TO MAKE HIM LEAVE:
This’ll be, what, I just concluded 18 years. And when I first got elected to Congress, we were in that wave of Republicans that took over the House, took over the Senate, those were fun times. [Newt] Gingrich was our leader, he had good ideas, we really passed good positive legislation. Sometimes it got done, sometimes it didn’t, although out of the Contract with America, I think we got seven out of the 10 provisions passed. Those were fun times. The time we went through at the end of the year, and really leading up to that — I’ve been working on this fiscal crisis now for two and a half years. And the bumps in the road we’ve run into … in the past couple of months wasn’t as much fun as what it was in ‘95, ‘96 and going forward.
You want to look forward to getting up and going to work in the morning. I really looked forward, in those early years, to getting up and going to work. Sometimes now I think, gosh, we got to get up, we got to face this fiscal battle again tomorrow.
– By Kyle Wingfield