Looking for a $174,000 a year job with prime health insurance coverage, a position that gives you the entire month of August off each year, plus an in-house seat at a nationally televised January event that produces applause and boos when the president addresses the nation?
If so, you need to submit your resume, complete with an address and contact information, to Gov. Brian Kemp’s office website. The governor is seeking applications for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson. Citing health reasons, Isakson announced his Dec. 31 resignation this month.
The law stipulates that in the event of a U.S. Senate vacancy, the governor must appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the next general election, which is Nov. 3, 2020. In the past, when a senatorial position occurred, the governor consulted with allies and party officials and made the appointment.
Kemp said he and his aides “will carefully vet the applicants and choose a person who best reflects our values, our state and our vision for the future.” In non-political terms, that means Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and other non-GOP stalwarts need not apply.
Most likely, the successful Republican applicant would also commit to running for a full six-year term in November 2020.
This isn’t the first time a Georgia governor has appointed someone to fill an unexpired term in the U.S. Senate. But it’s been 49 years since Gov. Jimmy Carter tapped David Gambrell to serve the remainder of former Sen. Richard Russell’s term. Russell died January 21, 1971 in Washington, D.C.
Gambrell, an Atlanta attorney, served as chief advisor to Carter’s 1970 gubernatorial campaign. He also served as chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party in 1970-1971. Gambrell took the vacant senatorial seat in February 1971, making it clear that he’d seek a full six-year term in the 1972 election.
Several Democrats entered the 1972 senatorial race, including Sam Nunn, a little-known state representative from Perry. Nunn defeated Gambrell in the Democratic primary runoff and Republican nominee Fletcher Thompson in the general election. Nunn held the seat 24 years before stepping down.
At the time, Georgia governors couldn’t seek re-election after serving a four-year term. But they could seek another term after a four-year break. Carter won the presidency in the 1976 election. Ronald Reagan unseated Carter in the 1980 presidential election.
Gambrell ran for governor in the 1974, finishing fourth in the Democratic primary. He hasn’t been a major player in Georgia politics since.
In 2019, a major question is whether Kemp’s carefully vetted applicant who gets the Isakson seat does better in the 2020 election than Gambrell did in 1972? Democrats controlled state government in 1972, Republicans have the power now.