Georgia Senate: Top state official applies for Isakson’s seat

Robyn Crittenden was sworn in as Georgia's 23rd secretary of state by Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday. Photo credit: Governor's Office.

Robyn Crittenden was sworn in as Georgia's 23rd secretary of state by Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday. Photo credit: Governor's Office.

A veteran state official who briefly succeeded Gov. Brian Kemp after he stepped down as secretary of state last year has applied for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's seat ahead of a Monday deadline.

Robyn Crittenden, who now heads the state government’s largest agency, said Thursday she submitted her application to the governor’s office. She’s seen as one of the top potential contenders for the seat, which Isakson will vacate at year’s end.

“Throughout my entire career, I have worked tirelessly to lead by example and serve with integrity,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I would be truly honored to continue that public service by representing Georgia in the United States Senate.”

Kemp this week set a deadline for applications for Senate for Monday at 5 p.m., about two months after his unusual decision to invite the public to apply triggered a blitz of resumes from hopefuls.

It's a sign that Kemp is nearing his decision to make an appointment after months of limbo, and Crittenden is the first of what's expected to be a spate of well-known contenders to apply in the final days.

Though the governor could select a more familiar name – he’s got plenty to choose from – he’s also under pressure to broaden the party’s base by tapping a person of color or someone who doesn’t come from a conventional political background.

Crittenden fits both those categories. She became the first African-American woman to serve as a statewide constitutional officer in Georgia history in November 2018 when she was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to succeed Kemp, who resigned shortly after his election victory.

She built an extensive resume in local and state government, with jobs as general counsel at Morehouse College, chief operating officer for the Georgia Student Finance Commission, a high-ranking attorney for the Board of Regents and assistant county attorney in DeKalb County.

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Crittenden was tapped as commissioner for the Department of Human Services in July 2015, a role that oversees a 9,400 employees and a $1.9 billion annual budget. The agency provides child support services, aging services, and family and children services.

During her short stint as secretary of state, she faced a series of thorny issues tied to the tight race between Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams, including a flurry of lawsuits involving claims of voter suppression and the much-scrutinized count of absentee and provisional ballots.

She certified the state's vote count on Nov. 17, a day after Abrams ended her run for governor without conceding defeat. She also drew headlines when she declined a request from Sarah Riggs Amico, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, for a recount of the race amid allegations of missing votes.

Shortly after Kemp took office, he reappointed Crittenden as head of the Department of Human Services. Republican Brad Raffensperger, meanwhile, won the secretary of state's seat after a December runoff victory over Democrat John Barrow.

Though Crittenden is a Republican, her stances on political issues and the degree of her support for President Donald Trump – major factors for any appointee – are largely unknown. She’s built a reputation of a policy wonk who has deep ties to state officials on both sides of the aisle.

Kemp has until the year's end to sort through a list dotted with big names — including current and former officeholders, business executivesa U.S. ambassador, decorated military veterans and radio commentators. A Democratic state legislator has even applied. The rest are a snapshot of Georgia: schoolteachers and social workers, physicians and farmers, mechanics and managers.

Aside from Crittenden, other top potential contenders are U.S. Rep. Doug Collinsstate Rep. Jan Jones, the No. 2 Republican in the Georgia House; Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton and Jackie Gingrich Cushman, an author and fiscal analyst who is the daughter of the former House speaker.