Georgia could be a battleground for GOP primaries


Now that Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2014, Georgia is becoming a battleground for fight between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment. Over at Georgia Tipsheet, James Richardson recently noted that Tea Party Patriots is considering involvement in the primary, which has led some Republicans to worry that the race “will descend into a conservative pissing match.”

To this point, however, only one candidate, Rep. Paul Broun, has announced. It’s is expected that Rep. Jack Kingston, a life-long appropriator and serial earmarker, will soon announce his campaign. And Rep. Tom Price, a generally solid fiscal conservative, is talking like a candidate and trying to contrast himself as a better communicator for conservative ideals.

Even though Republicans won’t head to the polls in the primary for than a year, there are new numbers out of the Peach State that show a close race. According to the survey conducted by Harper Polling, the race is a dead-heat among a handful of House members from Georgia:

In the Republican primary election for the open seat of Senator Saxby Chambliss, the race is wide open.  The field is stacked with Members of Congress.  In a state with 14 congressional districts, a Congressman’s statewide name identification is low and his support is confined early on to his district.  However, if the field has 6 credible candidates, 35% could win the primary.

Congressmen Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, Tom Price, and Jack Kingston are bunched in a pack at 19%, 18%, 17% and 13% respectively.  The buzz-worthy candidates of state insiders, Ross Tolleson and Kelly Loefler, have no name identification and therefore no support at this stage.

Broun and Gingrey are candidates that many Georgia Republicans don’t want to be their nominee. Both are known for their vocal socially conservative views. The biggest difference between the two is that Gingrey doesn’t have nearly as good of a record on fiscal issues and his support base is limited to social conservatives. Broun will get some grassroots and Tea Party support from around the state because of his stellar fiscal record, but he’ll also attract social conservatives.

It seems like many national groups would be attracted to Price’s candidacy, should he decide to jump in the race — though he’s said that he will not make a decision until May. It certainly seems that many are hoping that Price jumps in the race because of his solid record and ability to communicate the conservative message. He may well be the candidate on which everyone eventually settles.

Kingston, however, will get the backing of the state’s establishment, led by Gov. Nathan Deal. But bear in mind that Kingston, as noted above, is a life-long appropriator, a defender of earmarks, and has a terrible overall record on fiscal issues. If Price doesn’t run, expect Karl Rove’s new group to come out swinging for Kingston.

There is another candidate that could be attractive to fiscal conservative in this race — and that is Rep. Tom Graves. However, it doesn’t look like he’ll be getting in given that that nearly half of the Republicans from Georgia’s congressional delegation may potentially run. It’s been rumored that Sen. Johnny Isakson will not run again in 2016, which could leave Graves as a frontrunner in that race.

But as mentioned above, it’s too early to guess what will happen in the Peach State, but it does look like the battlelines between the grassroots and establishment are being drawn early.

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