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2014 US Senate Race in Georgia

Democrats Put Hopes in a Legacy Name Candidate



The Democrats are poised to lose a number of US Senate seats in a tough cycle for the majority party. They may even lose control of the upper chamber altogether, and polling suggests that such a scenario is not out of the question. Every week it seems another Democratic-held seats falls into the toss-up category, and their endangered list is already into the double-digits. Meanwhile, the GOP only has two seats on the radar for the Democrats to potentially take over. One is Kentucky, a state Romney won in a landslide and where US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will have millions to spend against a Hollywood-propped candidate who will be twisted in knots over Obamacare. (McConnell's troubles are more of his own making than that of a great Democratic candidate). The other competitive Republican seat - early on anyway - is in Georgia. But will Democrats have enough in the tank to invest in an uphill battle in a red state with so many other seats on the line?

The Republican Field

In early 2013, Saxby Chambliss announced he would not seek re-election to a third term, leaving the field wide open with no shoe-in replacement candidate. In 2008, Chambliss won re-election by 15 points in a run-off against his Democratic opponent. (How big was Obama's machine that year? In the general election when Obama was on the ballot, Chambliss advanced  with a slim 2-point lead but below the 50% threshold.)

The GOP primary will take place on May 20, 2014 and in all likelihood a run-off primary two months later. With a large number of candidates in the field, it is unlikely any candidate will hit the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff. The candidates' goal for the May 20th primary is to be one of the top two finishers and advance. A run-off primary could prove advantageous anyway for candidate trying to build name recognition. Three Congressman - Phil Gingrey, Jack Kingston, and Paul Broun - are joined by former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue. Handel lost a run-off primary for Governor in the 2010 elections while Perdue is also the cousin of popular former Governor Sonny Perdue. All five candidates have polled in the low double-digits, so there is no clear front-runner in that sense. But the money race has so far belonged to Kingston and Perdue. Broun has picked up a majority of tea party-affiliated endorsements.

The Democratic Pick

Sure, there will be a primary, but Michelle Nunn is the hand-picked favorite to win the seat - a pick based almost solely on her last name, it would seem. Nunn is the daughter of the former long-time US Senator Sam Nunn, a popular figure in state politics. It has been almost two decades since his retirement, so it remains to be seen if his name still holds as much value as it once did. This moment has seemingly been long in the making. Immediately out of college, she began working for a non-profit volunteerism organization (community organizer!) where she is now CEO. She married in 2001 but kept the Nunn name because, let's be honest, a "Michelle Martin" would not be a US Senate candidate in 2014. Nunn gives her instant name recognition and, so it would seem, credibility to be a US Senator.

So far, Nunn has run the "don't scare the conservatives in Georgia" type of campaign where she does the "I'm a moderate" dog-and-pony show. Not dissimilar to Alison Grimes in the Kentucky Senate race, Nunn is playing quiet on the Obama agenda while getting a heavy dose of love from all of the big liberal elites.

Where the Race Stands

Polling has shown that none of the candidates are all that well known. Nunn is known for her name, and is getting by on that alone for now, but she will eventually have to answer for the Obama agenda. Romney won the state by 8 points in 2012, while George W. Bush twice carried it by double-digits. None of the Republicans are all that well known by voters either. Like Nunn, Perdue could be helped a great deal by his last name. The end result is a general election match-up that shows mostly ties or statistical ties across the board. The true competitive nature of this race will likely not be known until the GOP nominee has been selected and voters get to see the candidates for the first time.

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