Sen. Saxby Chambliss, once loathed by Democrats but with whom they since found common cause on budget issues, is retiring. The GA Republican is dropping plans to run for a third term in 2014, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Chambliss was elected to the Senate in 2002 after eight years in the House. Early on he voted a solidly conservative line on social and domestic issues, but in recent years negotiated with Senate Democrats and fellow Republicans over deficit reduction proposals as part of the "Gang of Eight". While the group never quite produced a consensus plan, Chambliss's public openness to at least some tax hikes left him vulnerable on the right.
And at least two GOP House members from GA, Paul Broun Tom Price, have been contemplating primary challenges to Chambliss, whom they criticized for having participating in the bipartisan effort to broker a deal to address a $16 trillion federal deficit.
Chambliss's role as a bipartisan statesman would have been a surprise early in his Senate tenure. He got to the Senate in the first place by defeating Democratic incumbent Max Cleland in 2002. Chambliss focused on national defense and homeland security during his campaign, emotionally raw issues a year after 9/11. Chambliss's ad included images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, highlighting Cleland's record on the issues of war and terrorism.
Chambliss received criticism from Democrats and Republicans for this ad, pointing out that he, who hadn't served in the Vietnam War due to receiving military deferments, had attacked a Vietnam War veteran who lost three limbs during his service for not being tough enough on issues of war and homeland security. Republican Senator John McCain of AZ said of one ad, "It's worse than disgraceful, it's reprehensible." Senator Chuck Hagel of NE said the ads were "beyond offensive to me."
Chambliss supporters said the ad did not question Cleland's patriotism, but rather his judgment. Whatever the motive, the ad served as a template for national security-infused themes of President George W. Bush's successful 2004 reelection bid.
Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Politix reporting.