Navy veteran Latham Saddler enters US Senate race against Warnock

U.S. Senate candidate Latham Saddler served as a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he also worked in the White House.

U.S. Senate candidate Latham Saddler served as a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he also worked in the White House.

Navy veteran Latham Saddler announced Thursday that he will run for U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s seat, emphasizing his military experience with hopes it will appeal to conservatives in what’s likely to be a crowded Republican primary.

Saddler, a banking executive and former White House official during the Trump administration, unveiled his campaign with a video that highlights his background as a Navy SEAL and a former aide on the National Security Council.

“I will put Georgia first and keep America first,” he said. “I will not back down in the face of our enemies who seek to destroy us, or from those among us who seek to divide us. I’ll fight for you with honor, hard work, respect and resilience because that’s the American way.”

Saddler is the second Republican to announce a 2022 campaign against Warnock, the Democratic pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church who won a January runoff to become the first Black U.S. senator in Georgia history.

Kelvin King, a prominent Black Republican construction executive, entered the race earlier this week. And several higher-profile contenders are weighing a run. The lengthy list includes Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker.

In his announcement video, Saddler said he’s running in part because he’s concerned about China’s growing influence and fearful that “our country is being undermined from within by a broken political system lacking authentic leadership.”

He said in an interview he opposed the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus measure, backed the state’s controversial election rewrite and was skeptical of the pending $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal that President Joe Biden is promoting.

“I’m an outsider who also understands and appreciates policy,” Saddler said. “There’s a thirst for a next generation leader who is authentic, who genuinely loves this country and who understands that I’ll have to work to earn their support.”

Saddler, an Atlanta native, was student body president at UGA and taught himself Farsi after his graduation as he charted a course as a Navy SEAL. Over an eight-year military career, Saddler deployed on an array of missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

His last active-duty assignment was director of intelligence programs, helping to develop special operations for the National Security Council at the White House. He later was selected as a White House fellow before joining Synovus as an executive.

Saddler enters the race as a relative unknown in a field that could soon feature more prominent figures, but he hopes to parlay his standing as an outsider and decorated veteran to jump to a head start in the unsettled GOP contest.

“We are a caring and courageous people. And we deserve better,” Saddler said. “Raising my two sons here in Georgia has only strengthened my resolve to lead and serve. I will not stand by waiting for someone else to do the work required.”

Here are excerpts from Saddler’s interview with the AJC:

Q: On whether he’ll run if Trump endorses another candidate:

“I’ve been very focused on my North Star: Winning the endorsement of the people of Georgia. But if you look at this race and how it’s lining up, I’m the only candidate who has actually served in the Trump White House. I’ve got an attractive resume because of the unique experiences in my life, and am really fortunate to have been a part of the America First policy agenda.”

Q: On his stance on Georgia’s election law and the federal voting rights debate:

“Georgia has led the way on how a state can reform its elections ... I see an expanded pathway for more Georgians to vote under this law and I think the misinformation campaign is hurting our state. Rather than a federal takeover of elections, Georgia has demonstrated how to make elections easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

Q: On the federal stimulus measure:

“There’s too much capacity of wasteful spending. There’s a number of concerns, including that people are hurting economically but the amount they’ve received from a stimulus check is just a fraction of the total package. China is doing everything they can to instill a lack of confidence across the globe and destabilize the dollar, and we’re racking up trillions of dollars in debt. I worry about that from a national security standpoint.”

Q: On the proposed infrastructure measure:

“If it was solely an infrastructure package, then I think many Americans would want to give it a serious look. But from what I’ve read, only a fourth of it is going into traditional infrastructure. It’s a hike in taxes at a time when some of these corporations can just jump ship and move overseas.”

Q: On whether he would have objected to the Electoral College certification and Joe Biden’s victory:

“When you look back at the election, there is so much fog around the issue. It’s hard to say if Biden really received about 81 million votes. I don’t think anyone really knows, but you had people from both sides who lacked confidence. During my work in national security, one of our metrics for success for spreading democracy overseas is whether there’s confidence in the election system. That’s why the leaders here have adopted the changes.

“I don’t think the exercise in going backward on what I would have done as a U.S. senator is moving us in the direction we should go. The most important thing we do as a country is restore national confidence and pride. My goal is to ignite the patriot in everyone I come across.”