As you are aware by now, Georgia’s senior US Senator Johnny Isakson will resign from his office at the end of this year. Governor Brian Kemp will have the opportunity to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the next General Election in 2020. So, let’s speculate who may (or may not) be on that short list. (Note: this is pure speculation…)
Congressman Doug Collins: Congressman Collins checks a lot of boxes. He’s also gotten a good amount of the spotlight as the former Chairman and current Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee. National name ID, threads the needle of being a darling of the GOP base without being off-putting to centrists.
Former State Rep. Scott Hilton: He’s been the face of the Georgian’s First Commission and touring the state to talk with business and government leaders in Midtown Atlanta as well as rural Georgia. The governor selecting Hilton would not be a bad choice.
Georgia House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones: This would be a strong choice. A Republican woman from the suburbs of Atlanta might help buoy Republicans during the 2020 election cycle.
Attorney General Chris Carr: Appointing Carr, who served as Isakson’s chief of staff, would give the governor another opening to fill. Already tested with a statewide run, showing good results.
Former Congresswoman Karen Handel: She’s running for #GA06 and looks to have the best shot of defeating Tennessee resident and current Congresswoman Lucy McBath. But if tapped statewide, she has near universal name ID, good relations with the Trump White House, and has been vetted more than any politician in recent memory.
If The Planets Aligned, Maybe.
Congressman Tom Graves: A statewide race is probably in Congressman Graves’ future. Is now the time?
Former Congressman Jack Kingston: The former Congressman has been fairly active since his bid for US Senate in 2014. I’ve seen some Facebook activity trying to catch that angle.
Congressman Rick Allen: The Congressman could be the dark horse of this race.
Public Service Commissioner Tricia Pridemore: She’s ran statewide, so she has the experience of that type of campaign. Her conservative credentials would make for a solid choice.
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston: The Speaker could be a formidable candidate statewide. He understands the needs and differences across both rural and metro Georgia.
Former Congressman Lynn Westmoreland: His name has been floated for statewide office (governor), so it’s possible that the governor may call on him to serve Georgia once again. He could then ask what’s the holdup of his confirmation to the Amtrak board in person.
Former HHS Secretary Tom Price: He was an effective legislator when he was Congressman. He’s served as an advisor for Governor Kemp on healthcare policy, so it’s not a far-fetched speculation. Still popular in the swing-vote northern suburbs.
GAGOP Chairman David Shafer: I don’t see this happening since he’s taken the helm of the Georgia Republican Party (and doing a fine job, by the way), but he garnered broad support among GAGOP convention delegates and won on the first ballot (60+% on the first ballot in a four-way race), so he would be a contender and could find support across multiple factions in the Georgia GOP.
Congressman Austin Scott: A possibility, but I don’t think it’s a strong one. A good Congressman but most of his name ID remains in deep-south Georgia.
Former State Rep. Joe Wilkinson: metro Atlanta (Sandy Springs) former state legislator. One of Governor Kemp’s earliest and closest supporters.
Former State Senator Josh McKoon: would be a popular pick among the governor’s base.
Congressman Jody Hice: I’ve heard his name mentioned. If the governor had to choose between former Congressman Paul Broun and Congressman Hice, I think Hice would probably have better appeal. Other than that…I don’t see this pick happening.
Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller: Could be a possibility if Congressman Collins decides not to cross over to the Senate.
Former GAGOP Chairman John Watson: Nick Ayers has likely bowed out, and in the event Secretary Perdue doesn’t want to become Georgia’s next junior Senator Perdue, there will likely be a name floated from the House of Perdue. That name could likely be John Watson.
Don’t Bet The Farm
Gwinnett Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash: Okay, this might be far-fetched, but hear me out. She’s done a pretty good job as commission chairman. She negotiated a pretty generous MARTA contract for Gwinnett (though the vote ultimately failed). She’s not running for reelection, but she might be willing to answer the call if tapped by the governor. She, too, may help buoy Republicans in the suburbs in 2020.
US Attorney BJay Pak: He’s well-respected among Republicans, and he’s doing a great job as US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. He chose not to run for re-election in the state legislature and declined a run for GA-7. I doubt he’d want to transplant his family to DC.
Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan: the newly-minted LG navigated the new state political landscape and his chamber this past legislative session pretty successfully. It seems like the Senate is starting to coalesce around him. The governor would be better off leaving the LG in the Senate to focus on shepherding the policy agenda through the state senate.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue: I don’t see the likelihood of him sharing a ballot with his cousin Senator David Perdue, but the former governor-now-secretary is worth mentioning. Plus, an additional ally for President Donald Trump.
Who’s on your short list? Sound off in the comments.