Posted: 2:19 pm Thursday, March 6th, 2014
By Greg Bluestein
Democrat Michelle Nunn formally qualified for the open U.S. Senate seat on Thursday, a race that will only attract more national attention and dollars as her party tries to keep its majority in the chamber.
Nunn faces several primary rivals, but she’s the clear front-runner in the May 20 contest. The Republican field is much murkier, with five well-known candidates in the race. Nunn has so far avoided events with them, but on Thursday the nonprofit executive had this to say about the GOP side of the ledger:
“It seems to be a kind of drive to extremes in ideology and they seem to be fighting each other for those extremes.”
Nunn’s candidacy hinges on her ability to paint herself as a moderate in the same strain as her father, former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn. Republicans, meanwhile, have eagerly cast her as a “national Democrat” who will blindly follow President Barack Obama.
Complicating her political debut was Tuesday’s news was the White House’s ill-timed snub of Savannah’s port funding, which came as Vice President Joe Biden – the project’s most high-profile endorser – was raising money for Nunn in Georgia. Said Nunn:
“I told him how important this is, how it’s been an example of how people across all political parties and affiliations have said this is important for Georgia, it’s important for the Southeast, it’s important for the nation in terms of the economy and we need to get it done. And he agreed.”
But Biden’s words only go so far, as Georgia leaders rudely learned this week. When asked whether the vice president made any specific promises, Nunn said he did not.
“The Vice President said he was going to keep working at it and he believes firmly on the importance of the port and the investment in infrastructure projects,” she said.
State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan walked through a gantlet of her supporters after she qualified to run for superintendent as a Democrat. It was hard to miss one of her fans waiting for her on the other side: Leo Smith, the Georgia GOP’s director of minority engagement.
Morgan isn’t exactly a favorite within her party over her support of the 2012 charter school amendment, drawing the ire of teachers groups. So much so that Democrats are openly recruiting a challenger who is expected to soon qualify. She doesn’t think the party’s distancing will ultimately hurt her, and points to endorsements from former Gov. Roy Barnes and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
“I am an unapologetic champion for parents and I make no apologies,” said Morgan. “I’m fully confident that other parents who understand what it means to make the right choices for kids will be absolutely supportive. I’m proud of my bipartisan record to be able to work across the aisle.”
The Republican field for the wide-open race to replace Superintendent John Barge, who qualified Thursday to run for governor, is among the hottest tickets in Georgia. Nine GOP candidates have already qualified, and that number is expected to grow.
But if a long-shot GOP candidate emerges and Morgan prevails in her contest, we wouldn’t be surprised if Republican powerbrokers quietly throw support her way.
About the Author
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He joined the newspaper in June 2012 after spending seven years with the Atlanta bureau of The Associated Press. He also contributes to the AJC's Political Insider blog. Bluestein has traveled to Haiti with President Jimmy Carter, journeyed to Panama with Gov. Nathan Deal and tracked down a suspected Ponzi schemer in suburban Kansas. He spent weeks in Louisiana covering the Gulf Oil Spill, became an unwitting expert on capital punishment after witnessing almost a dozen executions in Georgia's death chamber and was part of award-winning teams that descended upon the biggest breaking news events in the Southeast. Bluestein has covered a range of beats, including environment, legal affairs and economic development. He's now the AJC's political writer, charged with covering the intricacies of Georgia's lively government on the newspaper's front pages and in the Political Insider blog. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two daughters.