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Karen Handel Testing U.S. Senate Race Waters; A Perdue Testing Too

By   /   March 21, 2013  /   Comments

Former Georgia Secretary of State and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel is now exploring entering the U.S. Senate race to replace Saxby Chambliss as an active possibility.  Handel has been mostly quiet since Chambliss’ surprise retirement announcement, while allowing conventional wisdom to linger that she would seek the 6th District Congressional Seat presumably to be vacated by Tom Price.

Price has since delayed an official announcement on a Senate bid until May, while others sizing up the race have either announced (Paul Broun) or have retained staff and begun initial fundraising efforts (Gingrey, Kingston).  Handel, now seeing the real possibility that Price may opt out, is beginning the process of checking with supporters and sizing up initial donor support.

Handel would start with an initial fundraising deficit to the members of Congress who have been able to raise campaign cash in their existing Congressional campaign accounts.  But she also starts with the advantage of having run a recent statewide campaign with a grassroots base in tact as well as national name ID from her time with the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Handel remains likely to defer to Price at least until his current May deadline, but also seems willing to chart her own course or at least be prepared to make her own decision when the time is right.

Meanwhile, there may be a Perdue in the Senate race after all.  Not former Governor Sonny Perdue, but his cousin, David, is also exploring a run.  According to his bio on Perdue Partners’ website, he is a founder of the firm along with his cousin and former Governor.  David is the former CEO of Dollar General, textile firm Pillowtex, and the Reebok brand.

The younger Perdue has no elective experience, but was appointed to the Georgia Ports Authority Board by his cousin.

Perdue appears to have the ability to self-fund the initial phase of his campaign and is presumed to have the network of his Uncle to form the core of a grassroots network.  He’ll also have a Tea Party network to deal with that Governor Perdue did not – one that will likely have a lot of questions of an appointment to a critical state position from a relative and how that appointment benefited the startup company which he founded.

The two possible new entrants would be facing Congressman Paul Broun who has already announced, and likely Congressman Phil Gingrey who recently added Chip Lake to his consulting team.  Lake was Gingrey’s General Consultant when he first ran for Congress and was most recently Congressman Lynn Westmoreland’s Chief of Staff.   Various news outlets are reporting rumors that Gingrey is on the verge of an announcement within weeks.

Also likely to enter the race is First District Congressman Jack Kingston.  Kingston has moved one congressional staffer over to his campaign team to fundraise (a customary and legal practice to ensure no taxpayer funds are used to fund salaries of those who support election efforts on behalf of a member of Congress).  He was reported to have also have retained a polling firm, which would be natural for someone exploring a statewide race.

Initial polls in this race will only gage name ID, illustrating the amount of work candidates will have to do between now and July of 2014.  A closer look at the competitiveness of the Congressmen considering the race will come on April 15th, when fundraising reports from the first quarter will be due.  This will be the first measure of the contest between Broun, Gingrey, Kingston, and Price – and possibly show why some will decide to run and why others may take a pass.

Charlie Harper is the Atlanta based Editor of PeachPundit.com, a conservative-leaning political website. He is also a columnist for Dublin Georgia based Courier Herald Publishing.

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