As Gov. Brian Kemp, left, considers who to fill the U.S. Senate seat Johnny Isakson is leaving for health reasons, the governor’s allies have been flooded with messages from potential candidates for the appointment. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Kemp: There’s ‘no timeline’ to select Isakson successor

Gov. Brian Kemp said he’s in no hurry to appoint someone to fill U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat after the three-term Republican said he would step down at year’s end because of medical issues. 

The governor told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his administration is “starting to figure out how we’re going to conduct the process” after a busy week that included a state scramble to respond to Hurricane Dorian. 

“There’s no timeline. I have a lot of good options,” he said. “There’s a lot of different ways we can go. I want to be very thoughtful and diligent in the process.”

Isakson’s surprise decision to leave office at the end of the year upended Georgia politics and gave Kemp a chance to make a coveted appointment. His pick would have to stand for election in 2020 to fill the remaining two years on Isakson’s term and then run again in 2022 for a full term.

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Kemp must also factor into the mix a potential 2021 election sandwiched between the two votes. Since the race for Isakson’s seat is a “jungle” special election with no party primaries to decide nominees, a January 2021 runoff would be needed if no candidate gets a majority of the vote. 

Kemp has an array of potential candidates to choose depending on the approach he decides to take: An effort to energize the party’s base with someone who appeals to conservative Donald Trump supporters or a chance to broaden the GOP’s appeal in suburbs where Democrats have gained ground.

Among his options are U.S. Reps. Doug Collins and Tom Graves, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, Attorney General Chris Carr and U.S. Attorney BJay Pak. He’s also likely to vet an unconventional contender, perhaps a business executive or judicial official, with little or no political experience.

About a dozen Democrats are weighing a potential bid, too, enticed by the unprecedented amount of attention and money that will pour into Georgia next year with two Senate seats on the ballot. 

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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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