Thanks to Saxby Chambliss, 2014 looks to be a banner year in Georgia politics.
Our senior senator likely would have found himself in a tough primary race had he decided to run for a third term. By announcing he will instead bow out after 20 years in Washington, Chambliss dropped a big rock into our political pond. The ripples are still coming.
So far, three congressmen have jumped into the race to replace him, and six state legislators have announced their intentions to seek higher office. That makes 10 open seats due to Chambliss’ retirement, and we probably haven’t seen the last announcement yet.
Except, that is, in the 11th Congressional District. The seat opening as Rep. Phil Gingrey tries to slide from the House to the Senate may have given us our first complete field for 2014 (among Republicans, anyway; it will be interesting to see whom the underdog Democrats nominate for Senate, but the other open seats are virtual GOP locks).
The 11th, which includes all of Bartow and Cherokee counties, much of Cobb, and a sliver of Fulton, just might be the best race in Georgia next year, too. The four-person field includes, in alphabetical order:
- Bob Barr, the GOP congressman-turned-Libertarian presidential candidate-turned-GOP congressional candidate;
- Edward Lindsey, the majority whip in the Georgia House;
- Barry Loudermilk, a state senator; and
- Tricia Pridemore, a first-time candidate (with an asterisk) but long-time political activist.
From personality and geography to ideology and constituency, this foursome creates a very intriguing political mix.
Barr and Pridemore both hail from Cobb, which has the largest share of Republican voters in the district (44 percent) judging by the 2012 presidential primary. But they could not be more opposite in other ways: Barr served four terms in Congress, while Pridemore’s only electoral experience was an unsuccessful run in 2011 to be the state GOP chair (the aforementioned asterisk).
Electing Barr would represent a whiff of 1990s nostalgia for one of the House managers in the Clinton impeachment proceedings. Pridemore could be the first Republican woman elected to Congress from Georgia (as could Donna Sheldon in the 10th District and/or Karen Handel, if she runs for Senate as expected).
Meanwhile, Loudermilk lives in Bartow and represents part of Cherokee, giving him familiarity with a good chunk of the 11th’s voters. But he may have the smallest natural financial base of the candidates, depending on how much his fellow state senators get involved.
Lindsey has the smallest geographic base: His home of Fulton supplies the 11th with less than 10 percent of its GOP voters. But money should be no problem for the man who has represented much of Buckhead under the Gold Dome for eight years. Lindsey’s fellow House leaders, including Speaker David Ralston, held a fundraiser for him just this past Thursday.
The 11th is Georgia’s third-most conservative district, and the 29th-most conservative district in the country, according to the latest Cook Partisan Voting Index. Each of the candidates has qualities and past work to appeal to that conservative electorate.
There’s even a decent chance they’ll do so in a way that focuses on issues, not mud-slinging. Do that, and the 11th really will be the most interesting Georgia race next year.