Ex-US Attorney plans to enter Senate race against Loeffler

Ed Tarver and his wife.

Former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver said he will soon announce a challenge to U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, which would make him the second prominent Democrat in a free-for-all race that is expected to attract more well-known candidates.

Tarver told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he plans to enter the race even if he doesn’t earn the blessing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has for months tried to recruit a top contender for the seat.

“I am ready. Planning to launch soon,” he said. “Georgia deserves a U.S. senator who has the courage to put our interests first.”

He’s preparing a run as Democratic circles buzz with word that the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, is the favorite of the national party and some prominent local politicians to run for the seat.

Warnock, who declined to comment, flirted with a challenge to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson in 2016 and dropped hints that he could join the contest at a recent state Democratic gala. The DSCC also declined comment.

Tarver, too, passed on the chance to challenge Isakson in 2016 but quickly made it known he was considering a run for his seat after the Republican announced he would step down because of health issues.

Tarver's supporters see him as a candidate who can excite the state's black electorate while appealing to law-and-order moderate voters.

A U.S. Army veteran, he represented an Augusta-based Georgia Senate seat before President Barack Obama tapped him to lead the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Georgia. He became the 43-county district’s first black chief prosecutor.

Jumbled field?

Tarver’s decision would assure a divided Democratic field in the November special election, which features candidates from all parties on the same ballot with no primary to hash out nominees. The winner serves the remaining two years on retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term.

Democratic leaders had hoped to avoid a bruising intraparty fight and unite behind one candidate to take on Loeffler, a wealthy financial executive who was recently tapped by Gov. Brian Kemp to fill Isakson's seat.

But those hopes are likely dashed as Tarver plans his bid and another contender, Matt Lieberman, ratchets up his campaign.

Lieberman, the son of former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, told the AJC he raised more than $700,000 since entering the race in October, sending a signal to party leaders that he could have the resources to mount a credible campaign.

Other potential contenders include DeKalb district attorney Sherry Boston and DeKalb chief executive Michael Thurmond.

Another possible contender, state Sen. Jen Jordan, said Friday that she would not seek the seat.

Republicans, too, could face their own internal warfare. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins has threatened a run for the seat since November, even before Kemp passed him over for the job despite President Donald Trump's personal appeals.

The more jumbled the field, the greater the possibility of a January 2021 runoff. Georgia election law requires a head-to-head matchup between the two top finalists if no candidate earns a majority of the vote in November.  

The contest is one of twin Senate races on Georgia’s 2020 ballot. U.S. Sen. David Perdue is seeking a second term - and four top Democrats are competing to challenge him.