Tom Price, the former U.S. representative from Georgia’s 6th Congressional District and President Donald Trump’s first secretary of health and human services, now wants to start a think tank. But the Roswell Republican’s plan to fund it with nearly $1.8 million in leftover campaign cash hit a snag with the Federal Election Commission. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Capitol Recap: Tom Price’s bid for U.S. Senate seat may have hit a bump

Former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price made news recently when he submitted a resume in hopes of becoming retiring U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s successor.

That effort may have taken a hit this past week following the resignation of U.S. Rep. Christopher Collins, R-N.Y., who then pleaded guilty to felony charges of insider trading.

Collins’ plea involved a company called Innate Immunotheraputics.

Price, who formerly represented Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, was one of four other congressmen who bought stock in Innate at a steep discount. Price has said he learned about the drugmaker from Collins but only invested in the company after reading more about it.

If some of Collins’ dirt lands on Price, it would present a big target for Democrats to attack in hoping to flip the Senate seat either in next year’s special election or in 2022 when it comes up for election once again. (Even if Price emerges free of stains from Collins’ scandal, he still has a scandal of his own on the books. Democrats would likely do their best to remind voters how Price was forced to give up his job in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet because of his use of private chartered flights for travel. The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services found that the agency had wasted at least $341,000 on travel by Price.)

So Gov. Brian Kemp might look elsewhere when naming a senator to serve in 2020.

The pick is of great importance to Kemp.

It could be seen as his most significant move since taking office. But the timing also could have an impact on how long he stays in office.

Kemp’s choice is expected to run in the special election and, presumably, the 2022 general election, when the governor will be seeking re-election on the same ticket.

A long shot, but one with deep pockets: John Gizzi, a columnist with the conservative website Newsmax.com, floated a dark horse candidate to fill Isakson’s soon-to-be-vacant seat: John Bardis.

You may recall that Bardis resigned last year as an assistant secretary of health and human services, but that would make you a fan boy for health care-related bureaucracy.

Bardis is more of an option because of what he’s done outside government. An entrepreneur, he sold Alpharetta-based MedAssets in 2016 for $2.7 billion.

So, as a candidate, if necessary, he could probably self-fund a campaign just with the change from his sofa cushions.

Looking for Kemp’s favor: Nearly 500 people have applied to the website Kemp set up as part of his hunt for an Isakson replacement. Here's a look at some of the bigger names on the list.

Thurmond auditions: DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond recently made a trip up to Washington to discuss running for Isakson’s seat in the special election.

Thurmond met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, who is heading the Democratic Party’s Senate campaign arm.

A former state labor commissioner for 12 years — and, thus, a rare Democrat who has won statewide office in Georgia in the 21st century — Thurmond has appeared on lists of potential candidates for Isakson’s seat.

At least two other Democrats have also hopped on flights to D.C. recently. Former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver met with Democratic officials there to discuss the Senate race. State Sen. Jen Jordan also visited the nation’s capital, although she did not give a reason for the journey.

Thurmond called his visit “a good opportunity to listen to the national party’s plans for Georgia in 2020 and to provide my feedback on the strategy they are working on for this state.”

He added that for Democrats to win in Georgia in 2020, “national leaders will need to work closely with state leaders to build a strong (get-out-the-vote) infrastructure.”

Thurmond sounded like a number of Georgia’s leading Democrats who have been calling on the national party to put some resources into the state to take advantage of its status as a likely campaign battleground in 2020.

Lieberman is in:Matt Lieberman, the son of former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, became the first contender to formerly announce that he will run in the special election for the Isakson seat.

Lieberman, who moved to Georgia in 2005, launched his campaign with a two-minute video that ties him to several prominent Democrats.

First, a campaign sign appears touting Stacey Abrams’ run last year for governor, and Lieberman says: “Last year, here in Georgia, we were given hope. For that hope to become change, we need to make sure that every vote is counted.”

An image of Al Gore follows, and next to him is his running mate in the 2000 presidential campaign, Joe Lieberman.

Matt Lieberman speaks again.

“To me, it’s personal,” he says. “In 2000, I watched as the Supreme Court stole the election and changed the course of history. We need a voting rights act for the 21st century.”

Perdue knows whom he likes: U.S. Sen. David Perdue seems to like another potential Democratic contender for the special election, and it’s a little surprising because he ran against her in 2014.

Speaking to American Red Cross officials during a tour of a facility in Douglasville, Perdue mentioned his “good friend Michelle,” as in Michelle Nunn. It was the second time he had praised her in recent weeks.

His high regard for Nunn involves, in part, her work with charities. She’s currently the president and CEO of CARE USA, and before that she headed the Atlanta-based Points of Light Foundation, a volunteer networking agency founded by former President George H.W. Bush.

“I thought a lot of Michelle when she was running,” Perdue said. “I watched what she had done for the foundation for George H.W. Bush. She’s got a good heart and a great mind, a great family. I revere her father, Sam Nunn. I mean, he’s an icon. He grew up in Houston County, where I grew up, and I watched him grow, watched what he did over 24 years in the Senate. And he and I work together today, a good bit. …

“I admire what Michelle’s doing right now at CARE. Our political beliefs are just so different that I had to compete with that. But when in America did it ever get to be that if we disagree on something politically, or from a religious viewpoint, that we had to hate each other? I don’t understand that. And all of a sudden, now because of some things that happen at the national level, we’re all so polarized.”

Three for 13: The Democratic primary in the 13th Congressional District just became a three-way race. Former East Point Mayor Jannquell Peters announced her bid through a video, slamming “absent leaders who only show up for elections.”

“We’re tired of them supporting this dysfunctional administration, voting against our interests, rolling back consumer and environmental protections put in place by President Obama and supporting Wall Street over Main Street,” Peters says in the video.

But those are just words. The video also includes footage of U.S. Rep. David Scott, the incumbent Peters hopes to beat, shaking Trump’s hand.

Also running is Michael Owens, a former chairman of the Cobb County Democratic Party.

The district covers parts of Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton and Henry counties.

7th minus 1: Democrat Marqus Cole was the first candidate to declare he was running in the 7th Congressional District.

Now, the political newcomer is out.

Cole, a lawyer from Snellville, filed paperwork this past week to dissolve his fundraising committee and later confirmed that he is suspending his campaign.

He struggled to raise money, and a number of other Democrats quickly joined the race, including two state legislators, a former county commission chairman and the Georgia State University professor, Carolyn Bourdeaux, who came within a few hundred votes of beating U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall in November’s election.

Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

— Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson has joined the nonpartisan contest to fill the seat of retiring state Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham.

Johnson serves in the Alcovy Circuit, representing Newton and Walton counties, and is the only African American in the race to succeed Benham, who became the first black member of the state Supreme Court in 1989.

Also running for the spot on the high court are former Democratic U.S. Rep John Barrow, former Republican state Rep. Beth Beskin and state Appeals Court Judge Sara Doyle.

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