Why Sally Yates won’t run for US Senate in Georgia

Sally Yates testifies on Capitol Hill on May 8, 2017.

Sally Yates testifies on Capitol Hill on May 8, 2017.

A few hours after Kelly Loeffler was announced as Georgia's next U.S. senator, one of her most formidable potential rivals explained why she wouldn't run for the seat.

Former Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates has long said she wouldn’t seek a Senate post in 2020, but some Democrats held out hope that the tantalizing prospect of two seats up for grabs next year would force her to change her mind.

At a podcast recording Wednesday with former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, once the top federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, an audience of hundreds burst into applause when he asked her a familiar question.

“Why won’t you run? They love you, they need you, you’re a person of high integrity, you’re a great public servant, you would easily win,” he said, prodding her once more. "Why won’t you just do it?”

Said Yates: “Running for Senate, that’s just not something that’s ever really felt like me. I really am incredibly flattered by your support. We’ve got some great people that are running ...

Bharara: “But they’re not you.”

Yates: “Well, but they’re terrific folks. I just don’t think that’s the thing for me.”

Now a partner at Atlanta-based King & Spalding, Yates earned national fame after she was fired by President Donald Trump after 10 days in his administration for refusing to defend his travel ban.

She shared the stage at the Buckhead Theatre with Bharara, who was also dismissed by Trump in the early days of his presidency.

Still pressing her to run, Bharara said he hated the idea of raising campaign cash, but said Yates could “send one email” and raise enough money to fuel her bid. Again, she told him she wasn’t interested.

“My heart is in public service. I can’t hide that. I hope that maybe some day I’ll get a chance to be in public service again. But running for the Senate – you kind of know what feels right and true, and what doesn’t. And that doesn’t feel right to me.”

The topic came up again near the end of the program, when Bharara pulled a question from an audience member who asked whether she or Stacey Abrams should be on the presidential ticket next year as a running mate.

“We don’t even have a nominee yet,” Yates said to laughter. “We’re way too premature to be talking about that.”

“Nice dodge,” shot back Bharara.