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Responses to Saxby Chambliss’ Retirement Announcement

January 26, 2013

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Note: This article was written for the Georgia Political Review.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss announced Friday morning that he would not be seeking reelection in 2014. He cited partisan gridlock as the reason for his disappointment with the United States Congress. His announcement sparked myriad responses from across the political spectrum.

Gov. Nathan Deal gave a pragmatic, straightforward comment in which he seemed most concerned with the procedural formalities of the situation. “I told him to make sure he served out his full term because I didn’t want to appoint someone,” Deal said to an Atlanta-Journal Constitution reporter.

Numerous partisans immediately saw the announcement in terms of the possibilities presented by the empty seat. Rep. Jack Kingston predicted that as many as 10 Republicans could compete for that seat in the primary. In addition to potential big-name contenders like Reps. Tom Price and Paul Broun, Rep. Kingston thinks the primary race could “probably have a self-funder in there, and you can have a mad scramble.”

With the most recent presidential primary still fresh in their memories, Democrats welcome the idea of such a wide and fragmented GOP primary with open arms. Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, says “Georgia will now offer Democrats one of our best pick-up opportunities of the cycle. There are already several reports of the potential for a divisive primary that will push Republicans to the extreme right. Regardless, there’s no question that the demographics of the state have changed, and Democrats are gaining strength. This will be a top priority.”
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Jerry Moran thinks the Democrats are overestimating their advantage, however. In a statement following Sen. Chambliss’ announcement, Sen. Moran claimed “what doesn’t change with today’s announcement is the reality that the Democrats have a very uphill battle to try wrestling this seat from Republican hands. Georgia is a red state that rejected President Obama and his liberal agenda by almost 10 points last November. While we take no race for granted, I look forward to the debate between a Republican candidate who believes in reining-in wasteful Washington spending, growing jobs and protecting the Second Amendment, versus a liberal Democrat who will be a loyal rubber-stamp for President Obama in Washington.”

Some fellow Senators overlooked the very partisanship that Sen. Chambliss bemoaned. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolinaexpressed “great sadness and disappointment” over the retirement of his friend.

Likewise, fellow Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson said he would miss working with Sen. Chambliss in 2014, noting that “our state and our country are better because of Saxby Chambliss.”

In addition to criticizing the partisanship gridlock that ultimately drove him away from Washington, Chambliss began looking to the future. “I’m going to have a life after this,” Chambliss said, pondering his life post-politics. “Sitting on a back porch drinking whisky with some of y’all is exciting to think about.”

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