Gov. Brian Kemp is about to take down the online “help wanted” sign he posted for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat.
The governor’s office set a deadline for applications for Monday at 5 p.m., about two months after his unusual decision to invite the public to apply triggered a blitz of resumes — some serious, some silly — from wannabe Washingtonians.
More than 500 Georgians have applied for the position, which will open at year’s end when Isakson steps down for health reasons. Some contenders have made their case to Kemp and his advisers, others are the talk of calculated publicity campaigns.
Although his advisers likely whittled down a list of top contenders for Isakson’s seat before they announced the process, Kemp has said he wanted to ensure that he considers a gamut of Georgians for the coveted job.
In a statement Wednesday, Kemp said he and his aides “will continue to carefully vet each applicant and nominate a person who will best serve our state and country.”
The list is dotted with big names — including current and former officeholders, business executives, a 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.
The format made it easy, requiring just a resume, address and contact information on the governor office’s website. There’s no request for a cover letter, a mission statement, a letter of reference or a policy paper.
Each applicant must also meet the three requirements set out in the U.S. Constitution: Candidates must be 30 years old, a U.S. citizen for at least nine years and a resident of Georgia.
A November surprise?
There’s a strong chance Kemp could surprise with his pick, though many Republican handicappers list three names as top contenders: U.S. Rep. Doug Collins; state Rep. Jan Jones, the No. 2 Republican in the Georgia House; and Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton.
Almost as notable are the potentially strong candidates who have stayed on the sidelines, either because it would be politically damaging for them to apply or they’re flat-out not interested.
Among them are Attorney General Chris Carr, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel and U.S. Attorney BJay Pak, who are each not expected to submit their applications.
Whoever Kemp picks would stand for election in November 2020 to fill out the remaining two years of Isakson’s term – and be expected to run again in 2022, when Kemp will seek a second term.
There’s also a chance of a January 2021 runoff if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, a distinct possibility in a “jungle” special election when multiple contenders from all parties are on the same ballot.
Meanwhile, 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 many are waiting for party leaders to bless a favorite.
The only candidate in the race so far is Matt Lieberman, the son of former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who announced his Senate campaign last month without support from the party establishment.
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