U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s chief political strategist is calling on state Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton) to shun a GOP primary challenge to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, in favor of a party-backed attack on Jim Marshall, the Democratic congressman from Macon.
A primary challenge to an incumbent lieutenant governor, said long-time Isakson associate Heath Garrett, Scott would benefit Democratic candidate for governor Roy Barnes, and “could potentially hurt the Republican ticket as a whole.”
“I believe and am urging Austin Scott to seriously consider challenging Jim Marshall in the 8th congressional district, where the entire Republican party can rally behind him,” Garrett said in a phone interview.
Scott is currently a back-in-the-field candidate for governor with a platform focused on opposition to taxes and increased ethics in government. But last week, Scott said several GOP voices had urged him to consider the race for lieutenant governor.
Cagle would be a tough opponent – he reported $765,082 on hand as of March 31, and today released the names of 600 prominent supporters.
But Marshall would be no cake-walk.
In the past several cycles, the 8th District has become a place where GOP hopefuls go to end their careers. Marshall represents a district that, on paper, leans Republican, but the former Army Ranger and Macon mayor has defeated several high-dollar GOP efforts to oust him.
Scott’s reputation and local roots could make the difference, Garrett said. “Austin Scott has proven himself to be an excellent retail campaigner and his maverick status would be very appealing to the independent and conservative Democrats in that middle Georgia district.”
We’ve got a call into Scott. Either way, it’s significant that the fellow at the top of the 2010 Republican ballot has taken an interest in Scott’s future.
Updated at 8:35 p.m.: The above has resulted in a great many phone calls from many parties, who make two points:
First, some Republicans have noted that Garrett, a political and media consultant, has a business relationship with Brad Alexander, campaign manager of Cagle’s 2006 campaign. (Alexander has taken no part in Cagle’s re-election bid.)
Secondly, others have pointed out that a transition from a statewide to a congressional race is particularly difficult — federal campaigns have much tighter restrictions on who can give how much money. Recycling funds from one state contest to another is difficult enough.
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