Hundreds apply to fill Isakson's Senate seat in Georgia

Hundreds apply to fill Isakson's Senate seat in Georgia
© Greg Nash
After Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonLoeffler under fire for stock trades amid coronavirus outbreak The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden riding wave of momentum after stunning Super Tuesday Nikki Haley expected to endorse Loeffler in Senate race MORE (R-Ga.) said earlier this year he would resign from the Senate, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) took the unusual step of asking those interested in filling the seat to apply online.
 
By Monday, when the deadline to apply passed, more than 500 Georgians had taken up Kemp’s offer.
 
Kemp has not detailed his thinking process on the Senate appointment. A spokesman said the governor has not set a timeline for his decision
 
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But Georgia Republicans and those familiar with Kemp’s thinking say he is weighing two potential paths: He can choose a conventional route with a known and tested elected official, or he can move outside the box and choose someone who has never held public office before.
 
Those sources say that among Kemp’s 500 choices, a clear top tier has emerged. Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsGeorgia makes it easier to get mail-in ballots after delaying primary Overnight Energy: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' House bill would ban stock trading by members of Congress MORE (R-Ga.), a conservative who has emerged as one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpCuomo grilled by brother about running for president: 'No. no' Maxine Waters unleashes over Trump COVID-19 response: 'Stop congratulating yourself! You're a failure' Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE’s top defenders on the House Judiciary Committee, is perhaps the best-known elected official on the list. State House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R), the most senior woman in Georgia’s state legislature, has also applied.
 
Two top Kemp allies applied late in the process, just hours before the deadline. One is Robyn Crittenden, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Service, who briefly replaced Kemp as secretary of state. Another is Allen Poole, who runs Kemp’s Office of Highway Safety. Either Crittenden or Poole would be Georgia’s first African American senator.
 
Two other candidates are likely to grab Kemp’s attention: Jackie Gingrich Cushman, an author of several history and political books and the daughter of former House Speaker Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (R-Ga.), applied early in the process. And Kelly Loefeller, a wealthy Republican donor who runs a financial services firm and co-owns the Atlanta Dream WNBA franchise, threw her name in the ring at the last moment.
 
“I have long considered how I can give back to our country through public service,” Loefeller wrote in her application. “It is important — now more than ever before — to have leaders with significant life and business experience outside of politics representing Georgia families in Washington, D.C.”
 
Several other current and former officials are on the list of applicants, including former Reps. Paul BrounPaul Collins BrounHundreds apply to fill Isakson's Senate seat in Georgia Joe Lieberman's son running for Senate in Georgia California lawmaker's chief of staff resigns after indictment MORE (R), Jack KingstonJohon (Jack) Heddens KingstonEx-Trump campaign adviser: Biden would be able to 'sit down and get some things done' with Republicans The Hill's Top Lobbyists 2019 Hundreds apply to fill Isakson's Senate seat in Georgia MORE (R) and Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceDNC chair says app used in Iowa won't be used in other primary states Hillicon Valley: Iowa chaos highlights misinformation threat | Officials blame app for delayed results | Company offers 'regret' | Nevada officials drop plans to use app | Ohio ramps up election security Company behind Iowa Democratic caucus app expresses 'regret' MORE (R), President Trump’s first Health and Human Services secretary; Randy Evans, Trump’s ambassador to Luxembourg and a prominent Republican donor; Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols; and state Sen. Tyler Harper (R), who is close to Kemp.
 
Some of the top potential candidates for the appointment decided against filing applications. They included Attorney General Chris Carr (R), former Rep. Karen HandelKaren Christine HandelConservative women's group rolls out new GOP endorsements for 2020 The most expensive congressional races of the last decade Georgia ready for unpredictable Senate race MORE (R), who is running for her old House seat, and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R), perhaps Kemp’s closest ally. 
 
Kemp’s spokesman declined to detail the governor’s thinking on the appointment. But several sources said Kemp is leaning toward an outside-the-box pick. 
 
Republican strategists are conscious that the appointee would immediately need to mount a reelection campaign in a state that has emerged as an electoral battleground, potentially favoring someone who could fund their own campaign or who would begin with a strong fundraising base.
 
There are signs that Kemp’s eventual pick might not have a clear shot at the Republican nomination next year. Collins told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that he might run even if he doesn’t get the nomination.
 
“In recent days and weeks, I’ve heard from more and more Georgians encouraging me to pursue statewide service. Those Georgians deserve to have me consider their voices — so I am, strongly,” he told the paper.
 
Though Democrats believe Georgia’s electorate is moving to the left, several top-tier contenders have opted against running either for Isakson’s seat or against Sen. David Perdue (R) next year. Those who have announced campaigns — including 2017 congressional nominee Jon Ossoff (D), businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico (D) and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson (D) — have all opted to challenge Perdue.
 
Only one Democrat, businessman Matt Lieberman, has formally said he will run for Isakson’s seat.