Georgia’s 2020 U.S. Senate race has gotten off to a relatively quiet start.
Democrats eyeing a challenge to incumbent U.S. Sen. David Perdue were in a holding pattern earlier this year as Stacey Abrams, the party’s de facto leader, mulled whether to enter the race.
Even after the former gubernatorial hopeful passed on the contest, the Democratic field has been slow to form.
That said, several candidates have expressed interest, and without a clear Democratic favorite the primary contest is considered wide-open.
Perdue, a first-term Republican, has a famous last name, arguably the state’s most powerful political network and a very powerful ally in the White House. He’s spent the opening months on the campaign trail highlighting the work of the Trump administration and lambasting Democrats for embracing socialist principles.
Here are the current and potential candidates we’re watching:
Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson
Details: Perhaps no Georgia Democrat has signaled their interest in the Senate seat as vigorously as Tomlinson, 54, who stepped down from her city hall gig in January after two terms in office. The lawyer filed paperwork to explore a Senate run in April 2019 with the caveat that she’d only run if Abrams didn’t and formally jumped into the contest shortly after Abrams opted out. Tomlinson has presented herself as a progressive who can also appeal to parts of rural Georgia where Democrats got clobbered in the midterms.
Sarah Riggs Amico, business executive
Details: An auto executive and political newcomer, Amico was defeated by Republican Geoff Duncan in 2018 in the race for lieutenant governor. On the campaign trail, she described herself as a pro-choice, evangelical Christian and former Republican. Amico is the executive chair of Jack Cooper Holdings Corp, a Cobb-based trucking and logistics firm that recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. She entered the race in August.
Former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff
Details: The 32-year-old former congressional aide built a national name for himself in the 2017 blockbuster 6th District special election. Ossoff ultimately lost to Republican Karen Handel but built up an impressive fundraising list in the process, one he used in to help suburban congressional candidates like Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux in 2018. Since the special election, Ossoff has returned to his documentary filmmaking company. He entered the race in September.
Other potential candidates who are considered doubtful:
Former state Sen. Jason Carter; State Rep. Scott Holcomb; Former U.S. Sen. nominee Michelle Nunn
Democrats who have ruled themselves out:
Other possible candidates:
Former state Rep. Doug Teper, a top ally to Roy Barnes in the early 2000s, is ruminating on a run. Several lesser-known candidates have filed fundraising paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, including Marckeith DeJesus, a financial counselor who lost two recent bids for the state Legislature. Stockbridge High School teacher Akhenaten Hotep Amun has also filed papers, as has Elaine Whigham Williams, a pastor who ran for president in 2016.
U.S. Sen. David Perdue
Details: The 69-year-old was a political neophyte when he announced his bid to replace the retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss in 2013, albeit one with deep pockets and a famous last name (former Gov. Sonny Perdue is his first cousin). Perdue’s anti-establishment message and country boy-turned-CEO image resonated with voters, and the Republican indicated he plans to revive those motifs as he ramps up his 2020 reelection bid.
Since arriving in Washington in early 2015, Perdue has prioritized overhauling the sputtering federal budget process, bolstering the Pentagon and loosening the grip of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul on community banks. He’s also closely aligned himself with Trump, sticking by the commander-in-chief even in his most isolating moments. His formidable political network includes officials in the top rungs of Washington and Georgia politics, including Agriculture chief Sonny Perdue, Kemp, Mike Pence’s former Chief of Staff Nick Ayers and ex-state GOP chairman John Watson.
Perdue is running for a second and what he says will be final term. He’s been quickly rebuilding his campaign infrastructure over the past year and holding a series of major fundraisers.
Decided not to run: No prominent Republicans challenged Perdue, but several lesser-known contenders considered jumping in. Derrick Grayson, a perennial candidate and self-styled “Minister of Truth,” created a 2020 Facebook group. He ultimately decided to run for U.S. Sen. Loeffler’s seat instead.
Shane Hazel, a veteran of the U.S. Marines, is representing the Libertarian party.
Clifton Kilby filed fundraising papers to run as an Independent, but did not qualify for the race. A retired police officer with the same name ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in Forsyth County, N.C., last year.
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