Jason Anavitarte. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com
Photo: Ben Gray
Photo: Ben Gray

Georgia Senate: Hispanic biz group urges Kemp to tap school board member

A Hispanic business group urged Gov. Brian Kemp to appoint a Paulding County school board member and prominent member of the Latino community to Georgia’s coveted U.S. Senate seat.

The Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday it “strongly supports” Jason Anavitarte’s application for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down at the end of the year for health reasons.

“The importance of having someone like Jason Anavitarte in consideration for the open Senate seat is crucial for our state,” said Santiago Marquez, the group’s chief executive, “especially when considering that the Hispanic community is expected to make up about a quarter of all Georgians by the year 2050.” 

Anavitarte, a Republican mover-and-shaker who chairs the board for Chattahoochee Technical College, is one of roughly 500 people who submitted applications with Kemp to fill the seat. 

Whoever Kemp picks will face a 2020 election to fill the remaining two years on Isakson’s term – and then a 2022 election for a full six-year term. 

Though some Republicans have grumbled about the slow-moving process – it’s been two months since Isakson announced his plans to retire – Kemp has not signaled when he will fill the seat or even when the online application process will end. 

Georgia Democrats haven’t moved much faster on finding someone to run against Kemp’s choice in 2020. No high-profile politician has yet jumped in the race, partly because potential candidates are waiting for party leaders to bless a favorite.

MoreInside the slow start in the race for Isakson’s Senate seat

MoreWho has applied for Isakson’s job

Kemp’s office has been inundated with applications since the governor posted his online “help wanted” sign for Isakson’s job in September, though the number of submissions has slowed in recent weeks.

The list is studded with well-known names — including current and former officeholders, business executivesa U.S. ambassador, decorated military veterans and radio commentators. 

Others who could be strong contenders have stayed on the sidelines, either because it would be politically damaging for them to apply, it could complicate their professional or personal life, or they’re flat-out not interested.

Some Kemp allies see the vacancy as an opportunity to grow their party’s appeal after last year’s narrow midterm victories, and U.S. Sen. David Perdue has urged the governor to tap someone who can “broaden” the party’s base. 

The Hispanic business group, which counts more than 1,000 members, is among the first organizations to take a public stance to back a candidate in the Isakson race. 

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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