Saxby Chambliss, who often drew the ire of conservatives and may have faced a primary challenge next year, said Friday he won’t seek re-election. But, the state’s senior senator says his decision to step down isn’t out of fear of a primary challenge.
“Lest anyone think this decision is about a primary challenge, I have no doubt that had I decided to be a candidate, I would have won re-election,” Chambliss said in a statement. “In these difficult political times, I am fortunate to have actually broadened my support around the state and the nation due to the stances I have taken.
“Instead, this is about frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress, especially on issues that are the foundation of our nation’s economic health,” Chambliss added. The debt-ceiling debacle of 2011 and the recent fiscal-cliff vote showed Congress at its worst and, sadly, I don’t see the legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving anytime soon. For our nation to be strong, for our country to prosper, we cannot continue to play politics with the American economy.”
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a former Congressman, said “history will remember Sen. Saxby Chambliss as a great Georgia leader and an American statesman.”
“Saxby Chambliss’s tenure in the Senate saw tumultuous times for our nation, from wars against terrorists to the fiscal crisis that threatens us today. Representing us, Saxby became an expert and a leader on these most important issues,” Deal said in a statement.
“Having served with Saxby in Washington for many years, I understand the gravitational pull of Georgia soil because I too felt the call of home,” Deal said. “Saxby didn’t wake up every morning and stick his finger in the wind; he started each day asking what he can do to ensure his grandchildren inherit a country every bit as great as the one enjoyed by our generation.”
Chambliss was elected to the Senate in 2002, after defeating Democratic incumbent Max Cleland in a bitter race. Six years later, Chambliss was forced into a runoff he ultimately won after a Libertarian candidate picked up 3.4 percent of the vote.
“I deeply regret my friend Saxby Chambliss’ decision not to seek re-election – he’s a true statesman of the Senate,” McCain said on Twitter.