A security officer. A talk show host with political ties. Multiple educators. A physician. A Realtor. An airline pilot. Business executives. A lawyer.
They were all among the first wave of applications to pour into the governor’s office immediately after Gov. Brian Kemp announced late Tuesday that he would open up the process to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson to any Georgian with several years’ residency, a resume and an internet connection. No deadline has been set to get in those submissions.
“To ensure an open and transparent appointment process, I am encouraging all Georgians who want to serve in the U.S. Senate to submit their name and qualifications,” Kemp said on Twitter.
With that, people have jumped at the rare opportunity to toss their name into the gubernatorial appointment hat for one of the highest positions in America. So far, 158 people have responded to what is tantamount to an online job posting, and many more are expected to do so.
“I enjoy daily challenges and opportunities to think outside the box and look forward to what the role as Senator brings,” said one applicant, a businessman and former railroad worker from Griffin, on his resume.
The unusual move to issue a call for applications for such a high-profile political appointment – and then to post those applications online for the public to see – stunned the Georgia political sphere and won praise from others for the added transparency to a typically shrouded process.
Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said there is usually no pretense of an open process when governors decide who they want to appoint.
“It really cuts against the grain of the notion of, ‘Well, everything is just a bunch of good ol’ boys getting together and making a decision.’ That there’s no input,” Bullock said. “This suggests that a lot people have a shot at it. Some have better shots than others, but at least you can get into the mix if you want to go online and send in your materials.”
Others are skeptical.
“The appearance of transparency doesn’t mean it will happen,” said Melita Easters, executive director of the Georgia’s WIN List. “There is no way in hell this transparent process is going to take politics out of this appointment.”
The quiet appeals and backroom discussions will likely still happen with the higher profile players with more to lose, she said. It will just happen before a resume is uploaded to a state website.
That may be particularly true for rumored candidates with elected gigs who may be reluctant to risk such a public failure by officially expressing interest in a promotion they are not guaranteed.
The scenario has conjured up memories for some of what played out in the 1970s, when then-Georgia governor Jimmy Carter had the opportunity to appoint a U.S. senator. Long-time U.S. Senator Richard Russell died in office and Carter made the surprise move to tap an attorney and Democratic Party chairman, David Gambrell.
Gambrell’s time in Washington was short-lived, though. A crowded primary election attracted 15 candidates, and Gambrell ultimately lost a run-off the following year to Sam Nunn, who would go on to serve in the U.S. Senate for more than two decades.
Kemp is no doubt hoping for a better result, especially since his pick will need to survive an election next year and then appear on the ballot when Kemp is also up for reelection in 2022.
“It needs to be someone who likes to serve, but they have to get elected at the same time,” said Rusty Kidd, a former Milledgeville state representative who served as an independent. “There are a whole lot of people who’d like to serve, but they’d have a hard time getting elected.”