Here’s how the Republican field stands, in terms of major contenders:
IN: U.S. Rep. Paul Broun (R-Athens).
PROBABLY SOON TO FOLLOW: U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-east Cobb) and/or U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta); and possibly U.S. Reps. Lynn Westmoreland and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah), who was in India when Chambliss made his announcement and who told Around Town he is looking closely at a run.
Possible drawbacks for a Gingrey candidacy are his recent muddled attempts to decipher Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments, and his own remarks that many conservatives took as pro-gun control; and his age. At 72, he could well be the oldest candidate in the race.
OUT: Former Gov. Sonny Perdue and talk-show host Herman Cain.
ON THE FENCE: Georgia Attorney Gen. Sam Olens of east Cobb, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and former Georgia Secretary of State and Price ally Karen Handel, who likely is waiting to see what Price does.
DARK HORSE: Kelly Loeffler, co-owner of the Atlanta Dream WNBA team and VP of investor relations at Intercontinental Exchange, an Atlanta-based company (owned by her husband, Jeff Sprecher) that operates Internet marketplaces trading OTC energy and commodity contracts. Ms. Loeffler likely could afford to finance her own campaign, if her $750,000 donation to the Restore Our Future “Super PAC” last year in support of Mitt Romney is any indication.
UNLIKE THE SUPER BOWL, which features a pair of pretty evenly matched teams, there’s only one team given much of a chance of winning the Senate seat — the Republicans. That fact is likely to keep Democratic politicians with the brightest futures — like Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, to name just one — biding their time for another four to six years until current demographic trends shift the makeup of the voting population more in their favor. Keep in mind too that the Democrats will not have Barack Obama’s name at the top of the ballot in 2014 to help drive turnout.
But you can be sure the Democratic field will offer a mixture of graybeards and up-and-coming pols eager for exposure and experience. Among the likeliest names mentioned thus far: state Sen. Steve Thompson of Marietta, who told the MDJ Thursday he is thinking of relinquishing his status as the unofficial “Dean of the Senate” to run for Chambliss’ seat; legendary Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta; former state Attorney General Thurbert Baker, former state Labor Commish Michael Thurmond, former Congressmen Jim Marshall and John Barrow, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and state Sen. Jason Carter (grandson of President Jimmy Carter).
THE “WHO’S IN?” GAME also is playing out on the congressional and lower levels as the aforementioned officials consider leaving to chase their dreams.
Other names that have surfaced, in addition to those reported in Tuesday’s edition of Around Town include (for Gingrey’s seat, if he should depart): Chip Lake, former chief of staff for Lynn Westmoreland; Tricia Pridemore, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Work Force Development; and state Revenue Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie. Meanwhile new Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds, who was mentioned as a possibility Tuesday, tells AT he’s happy where he is.
Michael Opitz, who ran against Gingrey in last summer’s GOP Primary and came in second (with 9.8 percent of votes) in a three-man field, and who told AT prior to Chambliss’ announcement that he was strongly thinking of taking him on, says he is definitely running next year — although he hasn’t determined whether for one of the two congressional seats or for the Senate seat.
“I still don’t see any strong Constitutionalists running, just lots of opportunists,” he said.
If Kingston goes for the Senate, likely candidates for his seat include former state Sens. Eric Johnson, Buddy Carter and Jeff Chapman and state Rep. Tommie Williams.
SPEAKING OF THE SENATE race, Olens told AT on Friday that he has not given “serious attention to (a run) at all. … Issues such as that are issues that frankly don’t require any rush. … I don’t understand the rush (for anyone) to make a decision in that regard. I’m having a great time where I am.”
On Thursday Olens was guest speaker at the Marietta Kiwanis Club. Around Town bumped into Olens there and joked, “Good afternoon, Senator,” to which the AG replied in dismissively, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah …”
He later was asked about the race during the Q&A after his talk, but declined to answer a “partisan question” in a non-partisan setting.
But his plans came up again shortly afterward courtesy of Cobb Superior Court Judge Stephen Schuster, who was presenting a book in the speaker’s honor to a local charity. Schuster noted that the book, “P is for Peach,” is about the “Georgia alphabet.”
“Well, I looked it up,” Schuster said. “I’m a judge, and I’m non-partisan too. I looked under ‘S’ and it said ‘S is for Senator’ and I see a picture of Saxby fading away and a picture of Sam coming in.’” ...
BTW, Olens will speak to the Cobb Young Republicans at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Johnny MacCracken’s in Marietta.
’ROUND THE SQUARE: Two of Marietta Square’s best-known restaurants have been sold, and big changes are coming for one of them.
Sterling and Nancy Wharton of Marietta purchased Willie Rae’s and Simpatico last week from longtime owner Ben Lyman. The two eateries are mainstays of “restaurant row” on North Park Square just down the street from the Strand Theatre and are tenants in buildings owned by Marietta Councilman Philip Goldstein. The Whartons plan to let their daughter Katie Pfister (MHS Class of ’04) and husband Micah — both of whom are accomplished chefs — run the restaurants. The menu at Willie Rae’s will remain mostly the same, with the addition of some Simpatico favorites.
Meanwhile, Simpatico will feature “local fare-to-table” offerings relying heavily on growers from Cobb County, many of whom can be found at the popular Marietta Farmers’ Market on the Square, Wharton said.
In another big change, the Pfisters will open a bakery upstairs in Simpatico, which will produce all the breads and desserts offered downstairs. Other plans include having late-night hours to capture the “after-show” crowd from the Strand, Wharton said. Simpatico will also get an updated interior, he said.
The Whartons live on historic “Mockingbird Hill” at the corner of MacDonald and Maxwell streets.
PEOPLE: The Rev. Dr. Charles Sineath, who pastored First United Methodist of Marietta for two decades, will hold a book-signing from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Traton Homes Community Room at 720 Kennesaw Ave., Marietta, for his new book, “Good News! Good News! Good News!” It features sermons that Sineath preached in churches, revivals, camp meetings, evangelistic crusades, retreats and seminars in 12 states and eight foreign countries, and those chosen for the book were among his most-requested, according to daughter Jeanine Marlow. Cost is $15, and if needed, additional parking will be available across the street at CDH Partners.
THE KIWANIS CLUB, as noted in last week’s Around Town, voted to stay at the Marietta Hilton/Conference Center rather than move its meetings to the First United Methodist Church. Yet Thursday’s meeting, rather than in the ballroom, and despite the presence of a high-profile speaker, was shunted to a cramped room in the Hilton’s basement served only by two small doors — a setup once described by then-state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine as a possible violation of the fire code.
Deadpanned Club President Bobby Tharpe to the crowd, “Last week we voted to stay here, and this is how they repay us.”
Then, moments later, the fire alarms began going off and continued to sound for five minutes before being turned off.
“I think Rotary probably turned them on,” quipped a member.