Why it’s Handel for me

The Republicans running to be Georgia’s next U.S. senator have gone to great lengths to convince voters they’re true conservatives. OK, I’m convinced.

They’re all for less regulation, scrapping Obamacare, shrinking the federal government, lowering the tax burden. They’re all real conservatives as far as I’m concerned.

So the question facing GOP primary voters is not who is reliably conservative, but who is the reliable conservative. Who will not only stand on principle, but also represent the state well in the Senate. And more immediately, who can be counted on to win the general election in November.

For my vote, that’s Karen Handel.

Let’s start with her competitors. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, congressmen who have trailed the other three in recent opinion polls, are too prone to saying things that make headlines for the wrong reasons.

So, evolution and the big bang theory aren’t just in conflict with Broun’s deep religious beliefs; they are “lies straight from the pit of hell.” Gingrey, an obstetrician, argued a past Senate candidate in Missouri, Todd Akin, was correct to say a woman’s body may be able to avoid conceiving after a “legitimate rape.”

Voters might look past these questions of rhetoric and judgment if Broun and Gingrey were otherwise clearly preferable to their opponents. They’re not. They offer too much political risk to conservatives and Republicans, for little to no return.

Businessman David Perdue has tried to separate himself from the rest of the field with his experience in the private sector rather than politics. His “outsider” message resonates with a lot of GOP voters.

But his message has a downside, too. Namely, Perdue has no track record of legislative votes to reassure the electorate he’ll do as he says. Nor has he been vetted as thoroughly as the more experienced candidates.

Perdue is asking voters to take a leap of faith at a time when trust in government is at a low ebb. Again, if his opponents were markedly inferior, that might be surmountable. But that’s not the case.

Which brings us to Handel and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah. Frankly, if these two are in this race’s inevitable run-off, Georgians can breathe a sigh of relief. Either would make a good senator.

But for those who believe the most important vote our senator will cast next year is against Harry Reid as Senate majority leader, Handel offers some advantages of electability.

She hasn’t been in Congress for 20 years and can’t be branded as part of the problem in Washington. And while only a desperate person would still label Handel as anything but strongly anti-abortion, Democrats will have a hard time portraying her as someone waging “war” on women.

Handel is not just the right pick by process of elimination. She proved her legislative mettle a decade ago by leading a divided Fulton County Commission. As secretary of state, she smoothly implemented both Georgia’s voter ID law and sharp budget cuts.

Handel championed ethics reform in Georgia before it was popular. She has the scars from that fight and from a coordinated assault by Planned Parenthood a couple of years ago to show she will dig in when she’s in the right.

Karen Handel has been right for Georgia before. I believe she’s right for Georgia again.