Karen Handel, the former secretary of state who later became a top executive at breast cancer nonprofit Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said she would run for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat.
“States, especially those with Republican governors, are doing a good job — they are balancing budgets with targeted spending cuts, creating jobs, and tackling tax reform,” she announced in a statement Friday only hours before GOP activists were set to huddle in north Georgia to elect a new state party chairman. “The biggest problems we face today are in Washington, and that’s where we so desperately need fresh thinking, bold solutions, and real leadership.”
She is the fourth Republican to launch a bid to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, joining a field uniformly populated by men.
Handel’s announced rivals are all sitting U.S. congressmen who (mostly) have deep campaign pockets, but it is a fourth, possible opponent that may pose the greatest threat with fundraising and institutional support.
Earlier this week, businessman David Purdue launched an exploratory effort to test the waters for a possible Senate bid. He is the former chairman of discount retailer Dollar General, but more importantly the cousin of ex-Gov. Sonny Perdue, for whom Handel once served as deputy chief of staff.
Well-placed Republicans say Handel, in her early examination of the contest, originally believed she could jointly lean on the political and donor networks of the former governor and Rep. Tom Price, an ally who recently forswore a campaign of his own.
But that blueprint has already begun fraying even before its ink dried: on Tuesday, the governor forcefully endorsed his kin’s as-yet-unannounced campaign, and it is said much of his own political network has followed suit. (“I believe he is exactly what our state and nation needs,” he said.)
Even without Perdue’s reinforcements, Handel allies insist she maintains an appreciable advantage over her rivals: she’s won statewide.
Her opponents, while subject to the whims of redistricting, have represented only slivers of the state, whereas Handel served statewide for three years as secretary of state.
She resigned her post in 2010 to focus exclusively on a bid for the governor’s mansion, which she narrowly lost in a primary runoff with the current occupant, Nathan Deal.
Deal, then a House lawmaker from north Georgia, was the consensus choice among the Republican establishment–the state’s entire GOP congressional delegation, save only for Price, ultimately endorsed him–but won the run-off by less than a half-percent.
In her announcement Friday, Handel said she’s prepared once more to take on the “status quo.”
“Georgians want a conservative senator with the courage to take on the status quo,” she said in a statement,” and to fight for them and our constitutional ideals, to be accountable to them — and not to Washington.”
- James Richardson