November 15, 2016 8:30 AM
President-elect Donald Trump is quickly building his administration over the next couple of months. A lot of names have been floated as potential picks. Recently, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has been named as Trump’s chief-of-staff. That will leave an opening for the Republican Party’s top leadership position (it’s also a position where GAGOP National Committeeman Randy Evans’ name has been floated to fill). Other names that have been floated to fill various positions include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, and Georgia’s own Senator David Perdue.
Senator Sessions, who was one of the first to hitch up to the #TrumpTrain, is speculated to have a choice of positions within the Trump administration, but what about Senator Perdue? I don’t entirely recall who Perdue necessarily endorsed (if he endorsed….and I don’t believe he did) during the primary, but the Senator tended to have kind words to say about the now President-elect. Speculation points to Senator Perdue’s cousin, former Governor Sonny Perdue, getting an appointment, but Senator Perdue may remain in the Senate. If Perdue says in the Senate, it would probably be by his choice and to be Trump’s floor leader. Anyway, let’s play around with some speculation *if* our junior senator ends up in the cabinet of Donald Trump’s administration. The 2018 calculus certainly does change.
First of all, there would probably be an appointment made by Governor Nathan Deal to fill the vacated seat left by Senator Perdue. That appointment would likely face a special election (as an incumbent) in 2018 to permanently fill the seat until the seat is up for re-election in 2020. With an open senate seat, that certainly throw another variable into the “who’s running for governor” question. Side note: that will put Georgia into five consecutive elections choosing a US Senator (2014 with Perdue’s election, 2016 with Senator Johnny Isakson’s re-election, 2018 with a speculative special election to permanently fill the seat, 2020 election for what was Perdue’s seat, 2022 election for Isakson’s seat). Now, for the “who”.
At least two of Georgia’s current congressmen could be on a shortlist:
Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA-03) is retiring at the end of his term. He might be on the shortlist since he is a former House colleague of the Governor.
Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA-09) is trying to climb the House leadership ladder, but there may be a chance to cross over into the upper house. His quest to become House Republican Conference vice-chairman will be decided in today’s caucus elections.
Two other Georgia congressmen may entertain the idea but probably won’t end up on the governor’s shortlist, but I’ll put them up as part of speculation:
Congressman Tom Price (R-GA-06) is speculated to be running for governor in 2018 or another potential pick in the Trump administration. He and the Governor haven’t exactly buried the hatchet from the 2010 gubernatorial race, so his odds at being Perdue’s successor in the US Senate may not be great.
Congressman Tom Graves (R-GA-14) is said to have entertained a run for the Senate seat in 2014. I wouldn’t be surprised if a statewide race is in his future, but I don’t know if a 2018 statewide run is necessarily in his sights currently.
Other notable elected (or former elected) officials:
Former Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA-01) was in the runoff with Senator Perdue in 2014. The former Congressman was also a prominent surrogate for Trump, so there’s a possibility of him going into the administration. If not, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kingston angling to put “Senator” as the title of his name.
Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle is rumored to be a contender in the race to be the next person to occupy that mansion over in West Paces in 2018. He may change his mind. He’s still pretty popular, has good name ID across the state, and can position himself as a Washington outsider…since that’s still a thing. Cagle heading to Washington would certainly open up the field for the gubernatorial race in 2018
Attorney General Chris Carr just succeeded Sam Olens as Georgia’s attorney general after Olens was named Kennesaw State University’s new president. It wouldn’t be a bad choice since Carr served as chief of staff for Senator Isakson. He could build upon his relationships while serving as CoS plus the added bonus of serving with his former boss. Of course, my understanding is that he’s content with his new position and looks forward to serving Georgians as their Attorney General.
Governor Nathan Deal’s Chief of Staff Chris Riley has been floated as someone for Deal to appoint. Riley has been a huge part of Deal’s team since his run for Congress in 1992. An appointment may be an appreciation of service by the Governor, but others may see it more as a political gift to a loyal member of his camp. This might be a risky appointment for Deal and his legacy.
So, what about the 2018 governor race? I would say that Kingston, Cagle, Price, and Westmoreland are the big contenders for governor in 2018. If both Kingston and Price receive cabinet positions and Cagle somehow ends up as our next US Senator, then Westmoreland would likely be a front-runner for governor in 2018. That is, if he chooses to run.
Either way, Georgia Republicans are going to see a shift in 2018 as elected officials try to move their way up the political ladder. Elected officials will use the opportunity to move up the political ladder. That shift has the potential of being even bigger with Trump’s upset win last Tuesday.