Editor's Note: The race for Saxby's seat 

U.S. Senate seats don't come open that often. It's one of the most plush gigs in the world.

You get paid to pat yourself on the back for being part of the "collegiality" of Senate tradition — while not really having to do much at all. (Senators love to pat themselves, and each other, on the back; it's one thing they all seem to do well, and often.)

You only run for reelection every six years. That means less time raising money and more time for relaxed golf. By contrast, those schlubs in the House of Representatives have two-year terms. They have to dial for dollars every day right from the putting green, poor things.

Senators can hide — collegially — behind the abused tradition of the filibuster. You get to vote "yes" on things you don't support and "no" on things you do, knowing full well that with the current procedural rules the Senate is nearly useless anyway.

And you get that great deal on health care for life, even if you only serve one term.

So when one of these 100 coveted, cushy spots comes open, a lot of competition for it will arise. And a whole crap ton of cash will be spent to buy it.

That's certainly the case in Georgia, with the recent retirement announcement by Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

The resulting melee in 2014 is forecast by some to end up being the most expensive statewide race in Georgia history.

So far, there are two definite combatants, in the form of two currently serving congressmen: Phil Gingrey of Marietta and Paul Broun of Athens.

Both Gingrey and Broun are not only conservative — which is to be expected in this conservative state — but extremely conservative. (As I wrote not long ago, Broun says evolution is a "lie from the pit of hell." Oh yeah, Broun is also a medical doctor. As is Gingrey, for that matter.)

Rep. Tom Price of Roswell hasn't announced, but is considering a bid.

Savannah Congressman Jack Kingston also hasn't formally declared his candidacy for the open Senate seat, but is almost assuredly running, according to every knowledgeable observer, both national and local.

(UPDATE: On May 2, Jack Kingston formally announced his candidacy.)

The Republicans have among them amassed a hoard of cash with which to buy the seat. Price is the current leader, with $2.7 million in cash. Gingrey has $2.4 million.

Kingston isn't far behind, with $1.75 million on hand and counting. (Again, Kingston hasn't officially announced, but observers say he's currently raising money at a rate about 10 times more than he generally collects for his easy House reelection bids.)

Broun, the ultra right-wing favorite, only has $217,000, but is great at generating buzz among the Tea Party rank and file who vote in large numbers in Republican primaries.

Kingston is the longest-serving congressional Republican in Georgia, but also faces a huge historic disadvantage: Coastal candidates almost never do well in statewide races in Georgia.

This longstanding trend becomes more pronounced with each passing year as the state's center of population continues to drift north into the metro Atlanta orbit, where all the other announced and assumed candidates are based. (Yes, I know Athens isn't metro ATL, but it's getting pretty darn close these days.)

However — and this is the state-of-the-art take I'm getting from insiders I've talked to about the race — Kingston's chances are enhanced by the fact that he's not completely out of his mind.

Kingston is plenty conservative, but nowhere near the type of firebrand Know-Nothing represented by, say, Paul Broun.

The logic goes that in the Republican primary, the crazies might cancel each other out and leave the telegenic, moderate-sounding (but not actually moderate) Kingston able to introduce himself effectively to statewide suburban Republicans looking for an alternative to the nuthouse.

So what's the action on the Democratic side? Scuttlebutt is that Congressman John Barrow is ramping up a run. Winning statewide in this red state is a steep hill for any Democrat to climb — even one as conservative as Barrow — but I've learned never to count him out. The former Savannah congressman has been redistricted by Republicans several times in attempts to specifically target him. He's won every time.

Still, all predictions are off. Except this one:

The campaign consultants and the TV stations will love this election. You and I, maybe not so much.


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About The Author

Jim Morekis

Jim Morekis

A native Savannahian, Jim has been editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah for ten years. The University of Georgia graduate is also a travel writer, authoring regional guides in the Moon handbook series... more

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