Crowded GOP field waits to replace Chambliss

7:33 PM, Jan 25, 2013   |    comments
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U.S. Select Committee on Intelligence ranking member Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) speaks to members of the media after a hearing on the Benghazi attack November 16, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

ATLANTA -- He's going on twenty years in Congress, most of it in the US Senate. And after all that, Saxby Chambliss faced a possible challenge from within his own Republican party for next year's nomination. To that, Chambliss said 'enough.'

"I have no doubt that had I decided to be a candidate, I would have won re-election," Chambliss said in a statement. "Instead, this (retirement announcement) is about frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress."

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Chambliss sometimes tangled with the Tea Party movement. The race to replace Chambliss will present an opportunity for the tea party to flex its conservative muscle.

"I think it's an opportunity to strengthen not only the tea party movement but to strengthen to the Republican Party," said Julianne Thompson of the Atlanta Tea Party. Despite their disagreements, Thompson says she liked and respected Chambliss.

Republicans considering the 2014 race to replace Chambliss will come from a who's who of elected leaders past and present -- from former Governor Sonny Perdue and former Secretary of State Karen Handel -- to members of Congress like Tom Price, Tom Graves, Paul Broun, Lynn Westmoreland and Jack Kingston.

"You could have a domino effect if you have two, three, maybe four House Republicans running for the Senate," said Dr. Kerwin Swint of Kennesaw State University. "That opens up their House seats for other Republicans to get involved in. So there could be a real scramble, a real shaking out here in the next 18 months." Swint said it is unlikely a Democrat could compete for the seat. Democrats haven't won a statewide race in Georgia since 2006.

Most of Chambliss's potential replacements issued statements praising him for his twenty years in Congress. It won't take long for the followup statements announcing candidacies -- even though the Republican Senate primary is still two summers away.

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