ATLANTA - Georgia emerged as a battleground state Monday in the fight for control of the U.S. Senate as Democrat Michelle Nunn announced plans to run for her father's old seat, joining a crowded field of Republican contenders and setting off what will likely be a fiercely contested and costly race.
“I’m not going to be labeled. I’m an independent-minded candidate,” Nunn said.
Nunn, 47, the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, becomes the first well-known Democrat to enter the race for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican. Democrats see Nunn's candidacy as a chance to make inroads in a Southern state that they once dominated, but where Republicans now control all statewide offices.
“He’ll be giving me some advice. He’s been a great statesman for Georgia,” Nunn said of her father. “Ultimately it will be my race but he’s going to be awfully supportive.”
Nunn told Geary her experience leading the world’s largest charity organization dedicated to volunteerism will help her in the political field.
Emory political science professor Merle Black said that’s a tough comparison.
“Important and consequential as running a nonprofit is, it’s not the same as partisan politics because you’ve got a lot of people there who are going to say bad things about you and you have to know how to deal with that,” Black said.
Geary asked Nunn if she is prepared for a vicious race.
“So I’ve had the honor of seeing millions of people mobilize across the country to do good work,” Nunn said.
“So have you voted for Republicans?” Geary asked.
“I have voted according to my conscience. I probably won’t disclose all of my different votes over time. Here is what I’ve done which I think is the most important thing -- I’ve worked with Republicans and I’ve gotten things done with Republicans,” Nunn said.
Nunn plans to file her official paperwork Tuesday to become a candidate and will hit the road next month to travel the state and meet with voters, said deputy campaign manager Zac Petkanas. The other declared Democrat in the race is Branko Radulovacki, an Atlanta physician.
On the Republican side, U.S. Reps. Paul Broun of Athens, Phil Gingrey of Marietta and Jack Kingston of Savannah -- along with former Secretary of State Karen Handel -- have entered the race.