DECATUR, Ga. — Georgia Democrats were not impressed with Governor Kemp’s choice for the US Senate, announced Wednesday. The question is whether they can come up with a candidate to compete with Kelly Loeffler in a special election next year.
As the newly-appointed incumbent, Kelly Loeffler became the favorite to win the seat next fall. Loeffler's advisers expect her to spend $20 million of her own money to jump-start her campaign.
But Georgia Democrats say, by challenging her, they will have their best chance in twenty years to win a US Senate seat in Georgia.
The Democratic CEO of DeKalb County, Michael Thurmond, is among those eyeing the race.
Asked about Loeffler, Thurmond said "It’s not just about gender or demographics. It’s about policies. It’s about positions but most importantly, it’s about having a reputation of service."
In contrast to Loeffler, who has never run for office before,Thurmond was a member of the Georgia legislature before becoming state Labor Commissioner. After leaving office, Thurmond became DeKalb’s school superintendent and was elected county CEO.
Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes thinks a Democrat can break the Georgia GOP’s hold on the US Senate next year.
"I believe a Democrat can win the United States Senate," Barnes, a Democrat, told 11Alive News Tuesday. "I think it will be a very competitive race. There’s a lot of (potential candidates) out there. Whether they’ll run, I don’t know."
Aside from Thurmond, the potential Democratic candidates include
- Sherry Boston, the district attorney of DeKalb County;
- Jen Jordan, a state senator who was vocal opposing the new abortion "heartbeat" law now tied up in court;
- Ed Tarver, a former US Attorney from Augusta, former state senator and US Army captain;
- Raphael Warnock, the politically active pastor at Atlanta’s landmark Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Warnock isn’t anxious to discuss a race he hasn’t yet decided to join. "I’m honored that so many people are talking about this possibility," Warnock told 11Alive News in November, "but I’m really focused on doing the best work I can do on behalf of the people I care about."
Asked if he thought he would be a good US Senator, Thurmond was similarly noncommittal. "I think I’m trying to be the best CEO DeKalb County has ever had," Thurmond said.
Meanwhile, Republican Doug Collins could also challenge Loeffler in what will be a special election "jungle" ballot, where all candidates will appear on the same ballot regardless of party. The two top finishers would face each other in a runoff if none gets fifty percent of the vote plus one.
It will be one of two US senate races to take place less than a year from now. The other will be for the seat now held by Republican David Perdue. At least four Democrats have announced for that seat.