The Atlanta Journal reported today that Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss will not seek reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2014. The report cited Gov. Nathan Deal, who said he told the two-term senator to “make sure he served out his full term because I didn’t want to appoint someone.”
The report was confirmed by the Republican Security Council on a Facebook posting that noted that Chambliss was vulnerable to a primary challenge from Tea Party-backed candidates. The posting also noted that Chambliss had an “excellent record on defense, foreign policy and war on terror issues.”
The real battle for Chambliss’ senate seat is likely to occur in the primary. Georgia has become increasingly Republican and is likely to remain so during Obama’s tenure. The last Democratic senator from Georgia was Zell Miller who was appointed to the seat by Democratic governor Roy Barnes after the death of Republican Paul Coverdell. Miller served from 2000 through 2005. Even though Miller was a conservative Democrat who spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention, he declined to seek reelection.
The AJC article notes that two members of the Republican house delegation, Paul Broun and Tom Price, have considered a primary challenge against Chambliss. Chambliss has been criticized by conservatives for his role in the “gang of six” discussions on the deficit with moderate Democrats in 2011.
Chambliss’ departure from the senate is the second confirmed retirement for 2014. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) is also retiring. New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg, who will be 90, is also likely to retire.
A Republican Security Council preliminary estimate for 2014 shows six tossup senate races. These seats in South Dakota, Alaska, West Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana are all held by Democrats in states with a strong Republican presence. Nothing is assured, however. Before the primary season, Republicans were favored to win the senate in 2012 with Democrats defending a number of vulnerable seats. Missteps by GOP candidates and a strong get-out-the-vote effort by Democrats ended those hopes.
Memories of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock may spur Democrats to enter the race for Chambliss’ seat. Their best hope might be that the Republicans nominate a political novice with a propensity for putting his foot in his mouth.
Originally published on National Elections