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January 26, 2013

Locals expect Chambliss decision will lead to crowded primary

Some local Republicans say they aren’t shocked that U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, has decided not to run for re-election to a third term in 2014.

“With everything that’s happening in Washington, with the economy still in poor shape and all of the battles they’ve had and will be having in Congress, I can see how someone would get tired of it all,” said Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb.

Chambliss said he would not seek re-election on Friday.

In a statement, Chambliss said he believed he would win re-election if he did run.

“Instead, this is about frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress, especially on issues that are the foundation of our nation’s economic health,” Chambliss said. “The debt-ceiling debacle of 2011 and the recent fiscal-cliff vote showed Congress at its worst and, sadly, I don’t see the legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving anytime soon. For our nation to be strong, for our country to prosper, we cannot continue to play politics with the American economy.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, said Chambliss ranks among the giants of Georgia politics.

“He has been a tireless advocate for Georgia and a respected expert on critical issues facing the nation,” Graves said in a statement. “I will always be thankful for the senator’s mentorship and friendship, from the day I joined him on his bus tour during my first run for the state House through all the tough debates we’ve had in the years since. His leadership will be sorely missed in Washington, and Georgia’s public servants will look to Sen. Chambliss as an example for many years to come.”

Babb said he believes Chambliss, 69, has served Georgia well.

 “I voted for him every time he ran, and I think he did a pretty good job as senator. Whenever you saw him on TV, you didn’t have to worry that he would say something that would embarrass us. But he did take a pretty good beating for trying to work across the aisle on some issues,” Babb said.

Conservative groups, such as the National Tax Limitation Committee and Americans for Tax Reform, usually gave Chambliss high scores. But he earned ire from many conservatives in Georgia for voting for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2008, which authorized the federal government to spend up to $700 billion to purchase assets from troubled financial companies.

“I am surprised. I’ve met him, and he seems like a very nice man. But he wasn’t a tea party favorite,” said Linda Fowler, organizer of the Murray County Tea Party Patriots.

Chambliss also angered some Georgia conservatives by trying to work with Democrats on a plan to reduce the federal debt and deficits two years ago, a plan that included tax increases.

“I’m not surprised he isn’t running again. A lot of people thought he was not as conservative as his constituents,” said Dianne Putnam, chairwoman of the Whitfield County Republican Party. “There were whispers that he would be challenged in the primary. I expect now we will see several high-profile candidates run in that primary. It will be exciting.”

Whitfield County Tea Party organizer Naomi Swanson said she believes tea party supporters want to see a candidate who will “put the country before their party.”

“We look forward to supporting that candidate. But we do appreciate Sen. Chambliss’s service in what is a difficult job,” she said.

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