The Jolt: Why some top Republicans haven’t applied for Isakson’s Senate seat

Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has named a task force to look at the cost and access of health care in Georgia. (PHOTO by ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has named a task force to look at the cost and access of health care in Georgia. (PHOTO by ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Call it political procrastination. 

More than 450 people have now applied to Gov. Brian Kemp’s office to be the next U.S. senator, mostly non-politicians who won’t be seriously considered — sprinkled with a few bigger names.

They include a few folks who will draw Kemp's attention, notably U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and former Health Secretary Tom Price, who was forced to resign after an expense scandal.

But many, many potential appointees who could make strong cases to Kemp have stayed on the sidelines. Their names will be familiar to anyone who follows our coverage: Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. U.S. Rep. Tom Graves. Former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones.

But the no-shows extend well beyond those figures. Few, if any, members of the judiciary have yet applied. Well-known business leaders have abstained. So have high-ranking law enforcement officials.

So what gives? Some may be waiting until the last minute to apply. The problem is, Kemp still hasn’t announced a deadline and can presumably cut off the process at any moment.

Others don’t want to apply unless they are certain to be a finalist. That’s particularly true for judges, prosecutors and business leaders who could face political or economic backlash for signaling their interest in the race. That could also account for why some incumbents, who risk being painted as being not fully invested in their current jobs, have yet to submit their resumes.

And many potential candidates are simply likely to sit this one out. If Handel applies, for instance, her Republican competitors in Georgia's 6th District contest could accuse her of not being committed to the House race. Attorney General Chris Carr has not actively maneuvered for the job and is considered unlikely to apply. U.S. Attorney BJay Pak, a former Gwinnett lawmaker who was seen as a top contender by some Kemp advisers, has already ruled himself out. 

One potential applicant in the judicial branch put it this way: “The open application process may have taken some good names off the table.”

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One name to take off the list of potential Senate applicants: Congressman Jody Hice, R-Monroe. The senior House Freedom Caucus member told The Walton Tribune he plans to run for a fourth term in the 10th Congressional District. "I've had a lot of folks who have asked me to consider the Senate position and have my name in the hat, but the people of the 10th District voted me to represent them in the House," he told the paper.

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Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, one of four major Democrats challenging U.S. Sen. David Perdue, announced his support for "Medicare for All" in a lengthy post on Medium. Terry said his experience working at a long-term care facility in college helped nudge him toward his decision. "The only way to tackle the long-term care crisis is with a cost-effective system that protects us all. We need one umbrella, one single-payer system," he wrote.

Specifically, Terry said he's endorsing the bill introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., that would transition the U.S. to a single-payer health care system under Medicare that "covers all American residents in one government-run health plan," according to Vox, while eliminating private insurance for core benefits.

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Earlier this week, we discussed freshman Congresswoman Lucy McBath's cautious approach to the burgeoning impeachment debate. Given the back-and-forth we've seen on social media in recent days about where she stands, we figure it's worth splitting some hairs.

Some media organizations tracking impeachment supporters have put the Marietta Democrat in the "yes" camp, pointing to her vote at a House Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month to set the parameters of the impeachment inquiry. And many readers could have inferred from a recent fundraising tweet from McBath's campaign that she's supportive of removing Trump: "Two weeks ago, I voted to begin the impeachment inquiry because I believe Americans deserve to have ALL the facts."

But the Insider team will refrain from putting McBath into the pro-impeachment bucket for now. McBath’s carefully-worded comments this week – and her team’s from when she voted on the inquiry’s parameters on Sept. 12 – emphasized her support for the inquiry process but stopped short of calling for impeachment outright. “I voted to formalize the impeachment inquiry process on September 12th and continue to support the responsibility of this Congress to uncover the truth and defend the Constitution,” McBath’s Sept. 25 statement said.

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U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, is looking to shift $1.5 billion in unused disaster relief money from 2017 to help cover agricultural damage from storms over the last two years, including Hurricane Michael. That would come on top of the $3 billion the Department of Agriculture is currently divvying up.

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The Senate passed a stopgap spending bill yesterday that would avert a government shutdown through Nov. 21, sending it to President Trump's desk for his signature. Johnny Isakson voted yes, while David Perdue rejected it, blaming Democrats for violating a handshake agreement to avoid "poison pills" during funding negotiations. "Instead of negotiating in good faith, they have chosen to force our women and men in uniform to operate under a (continuing resolution), which is reckless considering the evolving threats we face across the globe," he said. Funding for Trump's border wall remains a big sticking point.

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NPR highlights the bipartisan bond between U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, and his House Judiciary Committee colleague Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., in a post this morning. Allegheny College is awarding the duo its College Prize for Civility in Public Life for their work updating criminal justice and music copyright laws.