ROSWELL, Ga. – Karen Handel came out of nowhere two years ago with a campaign that eclipsed the Republican field in the primary but then lost the squeaker in a runoff with eventual gubernatorial victor Nathan Deal.
Now she is back, stalking U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ Senate seat he is vacating at the end of his term in 2016.
This time she will be a “name” in the race from the start, and she is sure to be better funded at the beginning than she was at the start of the governor’s race. But she is facing a bevy of experienced Washington pros – the announced candidates Phil Gingrey, Jack Kingston and Paul Broun are all sitting Georgia congressmen who have name recognition and fundraising acumen as well.
Appen Media asked Handel to sit down, give her reasons for getting into the campaign and tell how she plans to win the race this time. She agreed to meet with Executive Editor Hatcher Hurd to answer just why she thinks she will be the Republican nominee.
HATCHER HURD: The obvious first question is what made you get into this race with three congressmen already with their hats in the ring?
KAREN HANDEL: First, I reflected on what skills and visions could I bring to the table. If I read the public correctly, most people think the government in Washington has gotten off the tracks. I see that a lot in my travels.
We have to change the way we do things in Washington. I was speaking to a group about this, and I just blurted out, “We need to have less Washington in Washington.” I think that resonates with the people, and it’s become my campaign slogan.
But it is true. In Washington, we have to learn what many of our states have learned – and that is how to do more with less.
HH: How do we accomplish this?
HANDEL: That is the tough challenge. We must control spending. Reduce the deficit. That means making the hard decisions. We are tired of simply kicking the can down the road. That is all Washington does. We have to have a change of direction. We have to have tax reduction in a meaningful way. Trust is important. That is something we have lost.
We need leaders who are candid, and we need to make the tough decisions on spending. That means more management and implementation. We need a senator who is accountable to the people, not the needs of Washington or simple re-election.
I thrive in situations that are difficult. I was a Republican Fulton County chairman when it was not an enviable position.
HH: You did come in facing a budget that included a 3-mill tax increase. How did you turn that around a month in office to produce a budget with no tax increase?
HANDEL: I tackled it with tenacity and produced results. I didn’t get everything I wanted. But I showed how we could get the important things without raising taxes. When I was secretary of state, I cut my budget and got voter ID when the courts said I couldn’t do it. I can tackle this crushing debt that we can’t leave for future generations.
HH: How will you do that?
HANDEL: Not with just skill and experience. You need the passion to accomplish it. I have that passion. It means being willing to scrutinize every dollar we spend. It’s going to mean sacrifice too. We didn’t get in this position overnight, and the solution will take time.
More of this interview will be published next week.