Georgia Rep. Tom Price (R-6), who at one time was viewed to be a sure open seat Senate candidate and even a potential primary challenger to incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss, announced late Friday that he will not run statewide next year.
In retrospect, Price’s decision is not particularly surprising because he delayed so long in making a public pronouncement. Soon after Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10) entered the race — the first person to declare for the retiring Sen. Chambliss’ open seat back in February — Rep. Price said that, because of his duties on the Budget Committee, he would postpone any political decision until May. Clearly not committed to the Senate race, he now has officially chosen to remain in the House.
Price, originally elected to Congress in 2004, maintains House leadership desires. A former chairman of the Republican Study Committee and the Republican Policy Committee, he lost a race for conference chairman to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5) at the beginning of the current Congress. During his career in the state legislature, Price became the first Republican Senate majority leader in Georgia history.
Money certainly would not have been an issue for five-term congressman. He raised more than $570,000 in just the first quarter of 2013, and has more than $2.072 million in his campaign account. Most believed he would have been the strongest fundraiser in the field, so his status as a major candidate was unquestioned.
Currently in the Senate race are representatives Broun, Phil Gingrey (R-GA-10), and Jack Kingston (R-GA-1). Ex-Reebok corporate CEO David Perdue, a cousin of former two-term Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), has formed a senatorial exploratory committee and is considered a very likely candidate. Additionally, without her political ally Price in the Senate race, the door is now open for former secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel (R) to enter the campaign.
With so many House members running for the Senate, the possibility of Price being lost in the shuffle was real. This primary campaign will be a difficult one and a two-way August run-off will likely produce a bloodied winner. Once nominated, the victor must then face a competitive Democratic nominee, most likely Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D), in the general election. Thus, the 2014 path to the Senate is a treacherous one for all concerned, and this clearly played into Price’s calculations.
Handel is an interesting potential candidate. Winning a statewide general election as secretary of state in 2006, she placed first amongst a similar field of GOP candidates back in 2010. Then, as the incumbent secretary of state, she lost a very tight Republican run-off (by 2,519 votes of more than 579,000 cast) to then-Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA-9) who, as we know, went on to win the general election and is seeking a second term as governor next year.
With three congressional colleagues already in this race, and at least two other potential candidates with considerable political strength possibly entering the fray, Price may be bypassing this race to wait for another opportunity — one that could give him a clearer path to victory. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) must stand for re-election in 2016, and should he decide to retire instead of seeking a third six-year term, Price could find himself in the political catbird seat for a potential open seat election in just three years. It the senator decides to seek re-election, then Price will simply remain on his current track in the House.
Tom Price is a politician with options. Not running in the 2014 Senate race allows him to skip a political “do or die” scenario and remain in the game. He is definitely someone who will be regularly heard from for some time to come.