2020 elections

So You Want to Be a U.S. Senator?

Brian Kemp wants Georgians to think that ALL of them are under consideration for the Isakson Senate seat. Photo: Stephen Morton/Georgia Port Authority

An awful lot of Georgians are interested in the U.S. Senate seat that Governor Brian Kemp will fill by year’s end (currently held by Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down with three years left in his term, due to poor health). Seats in the upper chamber don’t open up every day, particularly those one might occupy without actually conducting a campaign. But Kemp, who is the object of all sorts of conspiratorial speculation about whom he might owe the most in making this selection, has decided to throw the door wide open via an application process in which absolutely anyone can answer a brief online questionnaire, attach a résumé, and get a shot at becoming a member of the world’s greatest deliberative body. Within hours of the questionnaire going up, 158 people had taken advantage of this opportunity, including one remotely viable possibility, radio talk-show host and former Kemp staffer, Martha Zoller.

If you want to be considered seriously, you might want to drop a couple of key names, like Kemp’s friend President Donald J. Trump or Senator David Perdue, who, along with his cousin Sonny Perdue (U.S. Agriculture secretary and former two-term governor), reportedly engineered the Trump endorsement that helped the self-styled “politically incorrect conservative” soundly beat Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle in the 2018 GOP gubernatorial runoff. Technically Democrats or independents are free to apply, but anyone who makes it to the live interview phase of the process should definitely wear a MAGA hat.

It’s unclear why Kemp has taken this approach to his appointment decision, but it might be in order to smoke out pols who are trying to keep their options open, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein observes:

Consider the cases of Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr or Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, both newly elected Republican officials who could be seen as overly ambitious ladder-climbers if they openly urge Kemp to appoint them only months into their four-year terms.

Or former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, who would be pilloried by her GOP rivals in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District if she publicly angled for a Senate seat while she’s competing for a rematch against Democrat Lucy McBath in 2020.

None of them would comment publicly about whether they planned to apply.

Applications aside, there’s already some public lobbying of Kemp underway from factions in the Georgia GOP. A prominent conservative advocacy group called the Georgia Republican Assembly took a straw poll at its recent convention, and then passed a resolution urging the selection of former congressman Paul Broun. In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, Broun cut capers for eight years in the U.S. House before he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2014 (the year David Perdue was elected). He’s a wing nut of the highest order, as best illustrated by a speech he made at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet (yes, there was such a thing) in 2012, in which this member of the House Science Committee condemned all sorts of science stuff as the work of Satan:

Given the high stakes for the national and state GOP based on Isakson’s replacement (who will have to run in a 2020 special election), Kemp is unlikely to look in Broun’s direction, but then the wiggy former congressman could run against Kemp’s choice in that 2020 jungle primary if the appointee is insufficiently out there.

Right now the front-runners are two current GOP congressmen, Doug Collins (Trump’s best friend on the House Judiciary Committee) and Tom Graves (a longtime conservative favorite). But Kemp’s open-mic night is going to generate some good clean fun before the deal goes down:

“This application process is the wildest contest since the search for golden tickets in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” said Josh McKoon, a GOP activist and former state senator.

So You Want to Be a U.S. Senator?