Karen Handel to run for open U.S. Senate seat in Georgia

11:44 PM, May 17, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Handel to run for senate seat

  • U.S. Senate candidate Karen Handel greeting other Republicans at state GOP convention in Athens
  • GOP U.S. Senate candidate Karen Handel talking with 11 Alive at state GOP convention in Athens
  • Congressman Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) Senate campaign table at state GOP convention in Athens
  • Congressman Paul Broun (R-Athens) Senate campaign table at state GOP convention in Athens
  • Retiring U.S. Senator (R-Georgia) Saxby Chambliss at state GOP convention in Athens
  • Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-Cobb County) Senate campaign table at state GOP convention in Athens

ATHENS, GA - Just as in comedy, timing is everything in politics.

It was no coincidence that former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel chose the opening day of the Georgia Republican Party state convention in Athens to announce her candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Friday.

"Well, it's important to be strategic in campaigns, so just call it strategy," Handel told 11 Alive News while chuckling.

Athens is also the home base of GOP Congressman Paul Broun, the first to announce for the seat being vacated in 2014 by retiring U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss.

Since Broun's February kickoff, two other Georgia Congressmen jumped in the GOP Senate primary: Rep. Phil Gingrey of Cobb County and Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah.

Even though Handel is no stranger to state and local politics, she's running as an outsider against what she calls D.C. professionals.

"We need a United States Senator who is going to be a fighter and be held accountable to the people of Georgia and not to the ways of Washington, D.C.," Handel told 11 Alive.

Although she's trying to out-conservative her opponents, Handel immediately came under the same criticism that dogged her during her unsuccessful bid for governor in 2010.

Georgia Right to Life issued a statement Friday calling for her to oppose abortion under any circumstances.

But Handel defends her pro-life credentials, pointing out the national criticism she took over her 2012 split with the Susan G. Komen Foundation over whether it should continue to fund Planned Parenthood.

"I'm one of the very few who's actually had to stand up for my conservative principles, in particular the life issue, when frankly, during that whole entire time most of the pro-life elected officials were rather quiet," she added.

While her three GOP Senate opponents are all veteran congressmen, Handel probably has as much, if not more, name recognition since she's the only one who's won state office.

A new poll released Friday by Gapundit.com showed the GOP Senate race wide open with all four candidates within a few percentage points of each other in the mid-teen range.

So far, no Democrats have announced in the Senate race.

(Copyright © 2013, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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