WASHINGTON — Democrat Michelle Nunn’s decision to follow in her father’s footsteps in Georgia opens a new front in the battle for control of the Senate in the 2014 elections.
This is the same Senate seat that her father, Sam Nunn, held from 1972 to 1997 as a centrist Democrat who appealed to GOP voters. The race to succeed Chambliss has already attracted three congressmen and a former Georgia secretary of State on the Republican side.
Democrats currently have a 54-46 voting advantage in the Senate and Republicans are already eyeing possible pickups in West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana, where the Democratic incumbents are not seeking re-election next year.
“Michelle Nunn makes this race competitive,” said Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University. “She has no experience but she has a great name. She clearly will be able to unify the Georgia Democratic Party and she’ll be able to raise a tremendous amount of money.”
No Democrat currently holds a statewide elected office in Georgia and Sam Nunn was last on the ballot in 1990. President Obama lost to Mitt Romney last year in Southern states such as Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, but had his best showing among them in Georgia, where he garnered 45%.
A divisive Republican primary could help the Democrats. Black noted that GOP Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey could have a tougher time raising money for a competitive general election race than Rep. Jack Kingston or former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel, who forced a GOP runoff for governor in 2010. Broun and Gingrey have attracted attention in the past for some of their controversial comments about evolution and rape, respectively.