Georgia Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss announced today he will not seek a third Senate term when he’s up for re-election in 2014.
In a statement announcing his retirement, Chambliss slammed Washington gridlock and lack of leadership.
“This is about frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress, especially on issues that are the foundation of our nation’s economic health,” he said. “The debt-ceiling debacle of 2011 and the recent fiscal-cliff vote showed Congress at its worst and, sadly, I don’t see the legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving anytime soon. For our nation to be strong, for our country to prosper, we cannot continue to play politics with the American economy.”
Most expected Chambliss would be challenged by a Tea Party-type candidate further to the right of his own policies. He denied that such a challenge played a role in his retirement decision.
“Lest anyone think this decision is about a primary challenge, I have no doubt that had I decided to be a candidate, I would have won re-election,” he said. “In these difficult political times, I am fortunate to have actually broadened my support around the state and the nation due to the stances I have taken.”
Chambliss boasted that he received “more votes than any other statewide elected official in the history of Georgia” in 2008 as proof that he could have stood up against any potential challenger. On Election Day in 2008, Chambliss received only 49.8% of the vote, requiring a run off that he ultimately won.
His exit from the 2014 race means the field is wide open, and speculation over who may run to replace him has already begun, with some big names already tossed around.
Georgia Rep. Paul Broun’s name comes up as a likely candidate. He’s a member of the House Committee on Science, who recently said, “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”
Rep. Phil Gingrey is another name in the mix. He’s most recently been in the headlines for defending Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments. And of course there’s also Herman Cain, who ran for Senate in Georgia before he ran for president last year, and could again. Some are even pointing out that Newt Gingrich could possibly throw his hat in the ring.
Candidates like those will appeal to Democrats looking to take back the seat that once belonged to war veteran and Democrat Max Cleland. A far-right candidate, a la Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, could turn a safe Republican seat blue.