Sen. Saxby Chambliss Retiring in 2014

Posted: Jan 25, 2013 2:11 PM

On Friday, Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss said he will not seek a third term next year. He denied suggestions that the primary had anything to do with the decision and instead pointed to frustration with Washington as the major reason:

“I have no doubt that had I decided to be a candidate, I would have won re-election. In these difficult political times, I am fortunate to have actually broadened my support around the state and the nation due to the stances I have taken.

“Instead, this is about frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress, especially on issues that are the foundation of our nation’s economic health. The debt-ceiling debacle of 2011 and the recent fiscal-cliff vote showed Congress at its worst and, sadly, I don’t see the legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving anytime soon. For our nation to be strong, for our country to prosper, we cannot continue to play politics with the American economy.”

Although his voting record is conservative, recent polling shows he wasn’t exactly a favorite among ‘very conservative’ Republicans.

Chambliss, 69, has been a GOP loyalist for much of his House and Senate career, but he earned the wrath of some in his party for participating in a bipartisan Senate "Gang of Six" intent on finding a way to reduce the deficit. The group advocated a mix of tax increases, anathema to many in the GOP, and spending cuts. The group failed to reach agreement and produce a bargain. 

Although no major Republican candidate had announced a challenge to Chambliss, he was facing the distinct possibility of a tough race. His decision was certain to set off a GOP scramble for the seat. 

Reps. Jack Kingston, Tom Price and Paul Broun were considering a run against Chambliss, as was former Secretary of State Karen Handel. Herman Cain “quickly removed himself from consideration this morning,” according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Without an incumbent, however, other names are beginning to crop up:   

More members of Congress – including Phil Gingrey of Roswell and Tom Graves of Ranger – are certain to consider the race now that it lacks an incumbent. In the state Capitol, one name has already popped up — that of state Sen. Ross Tolleson, a Republican who hails from former U.S. senator Sam Nunn’s home town of Perry. […]

Chambliss’ withdrawal could also awaken Georgia Democrats from the torpor they’ve been in since losing the governor’s office in 2002. This statement comes from Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:

“Georgia will now offer Democrats one of our best pick-up opportunities of the cycle. There are already several reports of the potential for a divisive primary that will push Republicans to the extreme right. Regardless, there’s no question that the demographics of the state have changed and Democrats are gaining strength. This will be a top priority.”

U.S. Rep. John Barrow of Augusta has said he wasn’t interested in challenging Chambliss. Whether or not that disinterest applies to an open seat may be another matter. State Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, may be another name to add to the mix.