Rep. Price rules out Senate run in Georgia

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) won't run for the Senate, he announced Friday.

"Over the past few months I have been inspired by the encouragement and support of the great people across the 6th District and the entire state of Georgia to run for higher office," Price said in a statement. 

"As of today, it is my intention to offer myself for re-election to represent the citizens of the 6th District of Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives in 2014."

Price had been mulling a campaign for the seat held by retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) but most Republican strategists in the state hadn't expected him to jump into the crowded primary field.

The congressman's decision likely means his friend, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R), will run. She's made a point to keep her name in the mix for the seat, and Georgia Republicans have long expected her to jump in if Price opted not to mount a bid.

Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) are already in the race. Businessman David Perdue (R) is also moving towards a bid, according to sources, as is one of the owners of Atlanta's WNBA team.

Price is the second Georgia House member to opt against a bid this week. Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), who likely would have been Democrats' strongest candidate, said on Wednesday that he wouldn't run for the Senate. Democrats are now hoping that businesswoman Michelle Nunn (D), the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), will decide to run.

Price may have had the best shot at uniting the party in the fractured field: He has close ties to Atlanta's business community and a voting record loved by more hardline Tea Party Republicans, and isn't gaffe-prone like Broun and Gingrey. 

His decision not to run further complicates the GOP primary, and could make Democrats take a hard look at the race.

Updated at 1:37 p.m.