Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday to run for Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss' seat, just hours before he is scheduled to make an announcement about the race in Atlanta. Broun is the first candidate to enter the race ahead of what is expected to be a crowded primary on the Republican side.
Broun's candidacy puts Republican Senate officials in Washington in an awkward if familiar position. Once again, they’re left hoping the conservative movement doesn't galvanize behind a candidate whose well-documented penchant for controversy could put at risk what otherwise would be a sure-fire victory.
Broun drew national attention last fall when he declared that evolution, embryology and the big bang theory were "lies straight from the pit of hell." He went on, in the same speech at a Baptist church, to say that he believes that the Earth is less than 9,000 years old and was created in six days. Broun's office stressed at the time that he was speaking to a religious group about his own personal faith.
Broun is only the first in a series of candidates considering a Senate candidacy who party officials worry could have trouble winning general elections, if nominated. GOP officials are nervously watching Iowa, where conservative Rep. Steve King is contemplating a run to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin even as many doubt he could win a general election there.
Another is Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., who is also considering a bid for Chambliss' seat. Gingrey last month defended the controversial comments on rape and abortion that destroyed the candidacies of two Republican Senate nominees in otherwise winnable races last cycle.
Broun and Gingrey may be joined by some of their colleagues in the Georgia delegation who could prove more palatable in a general election. Reps. Jack Kingston, Tom Price and Tom Graves are all mulling bids for the seat. However, Price sounded less likely to jump into the race in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Tuesday, citing the "huge responsibilities" he has as the vice chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Other potential Republican candidates include former Secretary of State Karen Handel and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
Broun doesn't have the financial advantage of some of his potential rivals, with just $155,000 on hand at the end of December. Gingrey leads the state's congressional delegation with $1.9 million in the bank, followed by Price with $1.6 million and Kingston with nearly $988,000. Graves trails them all with just $55,000.
Broun's entry into the race is not unexpected. He has been signaling his interest in the Senate seat for weeks. Price was even thought to be considering a primary challenge to Chambliss before the senator retired. His wife let the cat out of the bag at a forum in their home state last week, announcing that her husband would run. His early filing today was first reported by The Hill.
A spokesman for the DSCC said the looming GOP battle for the nomination makes the Peach State one of the Democratic Party's "best pick-up opportunities." "These Republican primaries, no matter what happens with them, they tend to produce a weakened or extreme nominee," said committee spokesman Justin Barasky.