morning Senator Johnny Isakson rocked Georgia’s political world by announcing
he is retiring at the end of the year. Isakson
has been a fixture in public service for over four decades. His name sits alongside others such as
Coverdell and Gingrich in the small circle of founders of the modern Georgia
Republican party. His departure marks not only the end of an era, but also
brings into focus the party’s immediate future in Georgia.
term is scheduled to run through the 2022 election. By law, Governor Brian Kemp will appoint a
successor to Isakson, whose resignation is effective at the end of the
year. That appointment is good until the
next general election, setting up another statewide contest for U.S. Senate in
2020 to finish Isakson’s unexpired term.
That’s right, both of Georgia’s
Senate seats now will be on the ballot next year.
seemingly unlimited millions of out of state money and an equally large
reservoir of resistance energy, Democrats are thinking big for 2020: 16 electoral votes, a hold of GA-6 and a
pickup in GA-7 for Congress, and now two U.S. Senate seats. Some are even
talking about flipping a chamber of the legislature.
A lot of Georgia’s
electoral future is on the line. How
Governor Kemp chooses to respond will tell us a lot about how he views the
electoral map, his vision for the future of the Georgia GOP, and ultimately,
how he makes big decisions that are solely his.
Republicans do not
plan on ceding any turf to the Democrats, and look to pick up Georgia’s 6th
district as well as some legislative seats lost in 2018. New maps will be drawn by the legislature
elected in 2020, and that will set the tone for the 2022 elections, when
Governor Kemp and his Senate appointee are both presumably running for
Much of the
immediate discussion among insiders following Senator’s announcement was
speculation of “who” would be on the short list. As this is an appointment, the answer right
now is an exercise in speculation. What
Republicans should coalesce around are the qualities that are needed in Georgia’s
next Senator, and how this person will play on the next two election ballots.
foremost, this should be someone ready to run an election campaign simultaneous
with their service. Appointing a “placeholder”
with no plans to run in 2020 sets the Republican party up for an unnecessary
intra-party battle for the next 15 months.
Opening up a
Senate primary would cause a cascade of current elected officials deciding to try
and “move up”, with others then doing the same to move into the newly vacated
positions. This would be a waste of
resources focused inward on intra-party contests at a time Republicans need
every dime they can raise to battle a wave of “turn Georgia blue” cash.
Secondly, this is
no time to create a dark horse candidate.
This is an appointee that will have to help carry Georgia for not only
themselves, but Senator Perdue and President Trump, and in two more years,
Governor Kemp. They need to be
previously vetted and tested. There will
be no time for a learning curve, and there is little margin of error for
Republicans need someone that is a complement to the ticket. In 2020, this is someone that will be at the
top of the ticket with President Trump and Senator Perdue. In 2022, they’ll need to pair well with
Governor Kemp and a slate of Republican statewide constitutional officers. The ideal candidate would be someone that
brings something different to the ballot that helps Georgia Republicans expand
their current base.
was both an architect and builder of Georgia’s Republican party. With his retirement, it will now be Governor
Brian Kemp that charts the course for a new era of Georgia Republicans.