Gingrey to announce U.S. Senate campaign

Gingrey will hold events in Augusta and Atlanta to kick off his campaign, according to the person who is familiar with the plans but asked not to be identified before the official announcement, drawing on Gingrey’s roots growing up in Augusta and his life in the Atlanta area since he attended college at Georgia Tech.

Gingrey will become the second Republican to officially declare his candidacy, following U.S. Rep. Paul Broun of Athens. U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ decision not to seek re-election next year has drawn considerable interest in a rare open Senate seat.

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Savannah Republican, is expected to announce his bid soon. U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Roswell and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel also are considering candidacies but remain undecided.

Gingrey, 70, serving his sixth term, has been most active in health care policy in Congress. An obstetrician/gynecologist who has delivered 5,200 babies, Gingrey is co-chairman of the House GOP Doctors Caucus, a group that has been aggressively critical of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Broun, a general practitioner, and Price, an orthopedic surgeon, also are members of the group.

But Gingrey recently stepped on a political landmine when at a town hall meeting in Smyrna he used his medical background to partially defend his former House Republican colleague, Todd Akin of Missouri, for comments Akin made last year about the female body being able to “shut down” conception in cases of “legitimate rape.”

In the same town hall, Gingrey also said he might be open to legislation limiting the size of gun magazines. The pair of comments earned him condemnation on the left and the right, and in an interview this month with the AJC, Gingrey recanted both statements.

Gingrey has hired GOP consultant Chip Lake, a former chief of staff to Coweta County Republican U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland and veteran of many campaigns across the state, to run his campaign.

Gingrey has been rated one of the most conservative members of Congress based on his voting record, but as he has geared up to run for Senate he has been pulled further to the right by Broun. Both of them voted against the House GOP budget last week after Broun called it not conservative enough. Only 10 Republicans in all broke ranks against Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan.

Gingrey has a head start on his rivals in fund-raising, as his $1.87 million campaign bank account at year’s end was the wealthiest in the House delegation.

The Democratic field has been slower to take shape, but national Democrats have courted U.S. Rep. John Barrow of Augusta and Michelle Nunn, the CEO of volunteer service organization Points of Light and daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn.