GOP senator risks primary challenge after ditching Norquist

Updated
U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) talks to the media in November
U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) talks to the media in November
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, 69, isn’t afraid of anti-tax bogeyman Grover Norquist, but soon he may have something more tangible to fear: a 2014 primary.

The Georgia Senator has made it clear in recent negotiations that resolving the fiscal cliff was more important than his 20-year pledge to never raise taxes. That stance has earned him the ire of the more vocal and conservative Georgians who are now threatening to challenge the two-term Senator with a primary, according to a new National Review article by one of our guests on Thursday’s Morning Joe, Robert Costa.

But Georgia’s 2014 Republican Senate primary looms, and the appetite for a Chambliss challenge is growing, especially among the tea-party ranks. On Twitter, two prominent Georgia conservatives, RedState founder Erick Erickson and Tea Party Express chairman Amy Kremer, have started to use the hash tag “#Taxby” to refer to the senator, as have hundreds of their followers. Erickson even briefly flirted with a primary bid. “We are a very red state, and he’s anything but conservative,” Kremer says in a phone interview.

According to GOP insiders, three Republicans are considered the leading primary contenders: Representatives Tom Price and Paul Broun, both doctors, as well as former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel. Several lesser-known politicians, such as state senator Barry Loudermilk, state representative Ed Setzler, and former House candidate Michael Opitz, are also interested. They’re closely watching Chambliss as the senator makes his case. “I’m not ruling out anything,” Price says in an interview. “Sometimes opportunity comes along and you weigh whether or not you can be of service.”


This is exactly the sort of thing that may scare Republicans away from a deal, despite the numerous calls from both sides for compromise and raised revenue—upsetting the base and facing strong primary challenges.

A Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday showed Chambliss losing his edge with Conservatives, but poised to win in a primary challenge. Chambliss allies point out that it’s a long time till 2014. “We have two years to go and that’s a lifetime in politics,” one aide said with a chuckle.

GOP senator risks primary challenge after ditching Norquist

Updated