President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to tap U.S. Rep. Tom Price as his health and human services secretary has already triggered a scramble to represent his solidly-conservative suburban Atlanta district.
At least six state legislators, a former statewide officeholder, a former state senator, a prominent immigration attorney and several wealthy political newcomers are considering a bid to replace the six-term Roswell Republican.
Some analysts are predicting the race to represent the 6th District, an affluent swath of the metro Atlanta suburbs that stretches from north DeKalb and Fulton counties to east Cobb, to be one of the most crowded and expensive special election contests in Georgia history.
It’s a challenging district for the dozen or so potential Republican candidates eyeing the race. Although Price won his six terms with relative ease, many of the Republicans in the establishment-friendly north Atlanta suburbs spurned Trump. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida won the district in the GOP presidential primary in March and Trump eked out a razor-thin victory there in November.
Republicans are favored to hold the seat, but Democrats vow to field a promising recruit. Several high-profile Democrats live in the district, including state Rep. Scott Holcomb, a U.S. Army veteran and attorney, and state Rep. Taylor Bennett, a one-time Georgia Tech quarterback who narrowly lost a reelection bid this month.
The election will likely be held in several months. State law requires the governor to call for a special vote at least 30 days after the opening. And Price is not likely to resign until he’s confirmed by the U.S. Senate, a vote expected early next year.
Here’s a look at the Republican contenders who could jump in the race:
State Sen. John Albers: Elected in 2010, the Roswell telecom executive and volunteer firefighter, he is a skeptic of MARTA’s expansion and a reliable conservative vote in the Senate.
State Sen. Brandon Beach: The head of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, Beach is an outspoken supporter of gambling initiatives to raise money for the HOPE scholarship and a pro-transit advocate who fought off a bitter primary challenge from the right against a rival who attacked him for his MARTA support.
Former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel: She’s a powerbroker in north Fulton County, and her campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate revolved around building support in the northern Atlanta suburbs. She’s also close to Price’s circle, which could pay dividends if other Price loyalists stay out of the race.
State Sen. Judson Hill: Almost all of Hill’s Senate territory – which stretches from Cobb County to Sandy Springs – is in Price’s district. And Hill, who seems all but guaranteed to run, would try to unite Cobb voters behind him.
Cade Joiner: A one-time College Republican leader who is a small business owner, Joiner would likely run as an outsider.
State Rep. Jan Jones: The Milton lawmaker is the highest-ranking woman in Georgia GOP politics as the House’s speaker pro tem, and she’s been able to cobble together compromises that have helped hold together the GOP’s ever-fractious caucus.
Charles Kuck: A devout Mormon and longtime Republican who is a nationally-known expert on immigration law, Kuck has been critical of the nation’s patchwork immigration system. He has confirmed his interest in the seat on social media.
Bruce LeVell. As the head of Trump’s diversity coalition, the Dunwoody jeweler might have the biggest claim of any potential candidates to his endorsement. LeVell once led the Gwinnett GOP and served on MARTA’s board for five years, and the Sandy Springs resident would likely wage a Trump-inspired campaign.
State Rep. Chuck Martin: A former Alpharetta mayor, he unsuccessfully ran for House Majority Leader in 2015 and was one of the leading critics of the state’s tax credit for electric vehicles. He has strong support in the northern reaches of the district.
Former state Sen. Dan Moody: The one-time Roswell politician is also a U.S. Army veteran who served on the state Department of Transportation board. If he jumps in the race, expect to hear about his support for term limits while in the state Senate – and his ability to finance his own campaign.
State Rep. Betty Price: Tom Price’s wife would have tremendous name recognition in the district, and in November she won another term as a state legislator representing a Roswell-based stretch of his district.
Kelly Stewart: The former Johns Creek councilwoman would also likely try to position herself as an outsider who can fund her own campaign.