Gingrey Jumps Into Senate Race in Georgia, Touting His Social Conservatism

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., announced his candidacy for Senate on Wednesday, confiirming weeks of rumors that he was preparing to mount a bid.

"It's time for Georgians to again send a tested, trusted conservative to the U.S. Senate who will work with [Republican Sen.] Johnny Isakson, and with a sense of urgency, to reward the trust Georgians place in him with action and results, immediately," Gingrey said, according to prepared remarks.

Gingrey is the second candidate to formally enter the race for GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss's seat and will join Rep. Paul Broun in the Republican primary. Republican Reps. Tom Price and Jack Kingston, as well as Democratic Rep. John Barrow, are also considering bids for the seat, which Chambliss will vacate after next year.

In his announcement speech Wednesday morning, Gingrey called for a balanced budget and a reduction in the national debt. But his speech focused heavily on social issues, highlighting his work as an ob-gyn and his stance against abortion, his support of Second Amendment rights, and his opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants. He also called for a full repeal and replacement of the 2010 health care law, though he did not outline what a replacement law might look like.

Broun, too, is a medical doctor and has honed in on social issues, specifically repealing "Obamacare." That could help separate the two from Price, who as vice chairman of the House Budget Committee tends to put more emphasis on fiscal issues. Both Gingrey and Broun have a penchant for off-the-cuff remarks that have gotten them in trouble in the past, leading to early speculation that they could become targets of Karl Rove's new Conservative Victory Project effort. But Gingrey has backtracked on some of those statements in recent weeks, including his previous defense of comments on rape by then-Rep. Todd Akin's, R-Mo.

Gingrey's choice of venue is interesting: He announced his candidacy in his birthplace of Augusta, which lies in Barrow's district, rather than his own district seat, Marietta. He held another press conference later Wednesday in Atlanta, the state's largest city.

Gingrey enters the race with nearly $1.9 million in the bank, more than any of his declared or potential challengers. Combined with his early entry, his financial edge could give him a leg up in a primary contest in which none of the candidates are well known statewide. That could change should former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who ran for governor in 2010, or Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle choose to seek the Republican nomination. Both have been mentioned as potential candidates, but Handel is seen as more likely to run for Price's seat should he enter the Senate race. Cagle is thought to be happy where he is.

Price has said he won't make a decision about the race until at least May, when the House has wrapped up its budget negotiations. Kingston has not given a timeline but told a group of Republicans last month that he would seek Chambliss's seat.