The campaign of Michelle Nunn, the Democratic nominee for Senate in 2014, paid a company created by state Rep. Stacey Abrams $30,000 in 2013. Abrams did not disclose the company on paperwork filed with the state until the AJC asked her about it. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM
Photo: Kent D. Johnson
Photo: Kent D. Johnson

Georgia Senate: Michelle Nunn passes on a 2020 bid 

Nonprofit executive Michelle Nunn, the 2014 Democratic U.S. Senate nominee, said Wednesday she won’t run in either of Georgia’s two Senate contests next year.

Nunn told the staff of CARE USA, the nonprofit Atlanta-based humanitarian organization she’s led since 2015, that she wouldn’t seek a rematch against Sen. David Perdue or run for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down at year’s end for health reasons.

In a text message to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nunn said she was “deferring any run for office at this time and focusing on our mission to end poverty and lift up women and girls. This chapter is for CARE.” 

The move came as little surprise to state Democratic leaders, who have long suspected she was not likely to run in races featuring plenty of interest.

Four Democrats are already competing to challenge Perdue, and a half-dozen other prominent party figures are maneuvering to run for Isakson’s seat.

Still, Republicans cast her decision as the latest in a string of big-name Democrats who have passed on the race, a list that includes Stacey Abrams, the 2018 gubernatorial nominee, and U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who flipped a suburban Atlanta district last year.

“The Peach State will decide control of the Senate in 2020, but Democrats appear to be stuck with a weak crop of candidates, none of whom are capable of winning either of Georgia’s Senate seats,” said John Burke, head of the pro-Perdue Georgia Action Fund.

More: Georgia Democrats maneuver amid awkward Senate waiting game 

More: US Senate: Who has applied for Johnny Isakson's Georgia seat

The potential contenders for Isakson’s seat include DeKalb chief executive Michael Thurmond, former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver, DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston, the Rev. Raphael Warnock and state Sens. Jen Jordan and Nikema Williams.

Former educator Matt Lieberman, the son of ex-U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, has also entered the race without support from the national or state party. Gov. Brian Kemp has yet to appoint a successor to Isakson, though hundreds have applied. 

As a first-time Democratic candidate with a long history in the nonprofit world, Nunn surprised many with her fund-raising ability in the 2014 race. Since losing to Perdue by an 8-point margin, though, she largely retreated from politics. 

Nunn’s allies, who include many associates of her father, former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, circulated word that she was interested in a 2020 bid shortly after Isakson announced he would step down. They presented her as an appealing choice to middle-of-the-road voters tired of President Donald Trump.  

But some party leaders quickly soured on the idea, saying that her moderate message and arm’s length approach to President Barack Obama wouldn’t fly in a 2020 campaign that’s being shaped by the party’s move to the left.  

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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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