Friends of former secretary of state Karen Handel tell us that Rob Simms, once her chief of staff – now a D.C. media consultant, wasn’t blowing smoke when he said Handel was considering a 2014 challenge to U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
Simms dropped Handel’s name last week in a Weekly Standard roundup of potential primary rivals to Chambliss – a well-timed piece, given the senator’s decision to renew his fight with Grover Norquist as the Thanksgiving recess began. Other possibilities included U.S. Reps. Tom Price, R-Roswell; Paul Broun, R-Athens; and Tom Graves, R-Ranger. (U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey sent word to Chambliss and state GOP Chairman Sue Everhart weeks ago that he’s not considering it.)
We haven’t talked to him, but we’re told that Graves is less than interested in mounting a challenge to Chambliss – for many reasons, but including the fact that a special election, a special election runoff, a primary, then a primary runoff can chew up a man’s finances. Graves hasn’t yet recovered from 2010.
Broun would be an intriguing possibility – if Republicans hadn’t just seen control of the U.S. Senate slip away once more because of ill-phrased, hard-right rhetoric. This is an area in which Broun has specialized – ideas spawned from the pit of hell and such. A Broun candidacy would certainly spur hibernating Georgia Democrats into action, on the off-chance that the Athens congressman might actually take Chambliss down and give them an earlier-than-expected foothold on relevance in a general election.
Handel, of course, has a statewide election under her belt – and came within a percentage point of beating Nathan Deal in the 2010 Republican runoff for governor. (She has a book to sell, too, but let us ignore that point.)
Price has never run statewide, but given that the largest portion of Georgia voters can be reached through the metro Atlanta media market, that’s less of a roadblock than it once was. The Roswell congressman also has $1.6 million in the bank – a sizable head start on any other would-be challenger to Chambliss.
What’s being ignored is the fact that Handel and Price have a close political and geographic connection. Price was the only Republican member of Congress from Georgia to endorse Handel’s gubernatorial ambitions. (Both are thus unloved by the current governor.)
One will not run if the other does. So the more that you hear one of these two north Fulton figures talk about a U.S. Senate run, the less likely it is that the other is truly considering the contest.
Handel’s dropped name doesn’t mean that Price has given up the idea. But it does mean that, after studying the odds, he might say no. And certain people are preparing.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider