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With Sen. Zell Miller (D.-Ga.) announcing he will not seek reelection, Georgia Republicans believe they have an excellent chance to pick up his seat and do it with a solid conservative.

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Georgia May See Hot GOP Senate Primary

With Sen. Zell Miller (D.-Ga.) announcing he will not seek reelection, Georgia Republicans believe they have an excellent chance to pick up his seat and do it with a solid conservative.

With Sen. Zell Miller (D.-Ga.) announcing he will not seek reelection, Georgia Republicans believe they have an excellent chance to pick up his seat and do it with a solid conservative.

But they are nervous that White House political operatives might prefer to see moderate Rep. Johnny Isakson as the GOP nominee. Isakson (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 75%) is the most liberal of the state’s seven Republican House members.

One prominent Georgia Republican told me he privately warned a White House political deputy to "stay away from Johnny. Anyone whose TV commercials advertised him as the ‘pro-choice Republican’ in a Georgia primary is going to have a real problem." (That’s what Isakson called himself in the 1996 Senate primary that he lost to conservative Guy Milner.)

Isakson has opposed House conservatives on spending and tax cut measures. In 2001, he voted against the conservative budget resolution sponsored by Rep. Jeff Flake (R.-Ariz.), and he also voted against the Hyde Amendment that denies funding to international organizations that provide or promote abortions.

When Isakson was minority leader in the state house in the 1970s, he irked conservatives by often acquiescing to the demands of Democratic House Speaker Tom Murphy.

Georgia Republicans believe the White House might be tempted to intervene in Isakson’s favor because Isakson campaigned with the President on behalf of the senior President Bush in 1988. In 2001, these same Republicans note, Isakson shepherded Bush’s big education spending bill through the House.

Isakson counters the concerns of conservatives by strongly insisting he is a conservative himself. His self-characterization as "pro-choice" notwithstanding, he told me, "I’m rated 81% by the National Right to Life Committee and 92% by the Christian Coalition and that’s pretty conservative." (National Right to Life gave Isakson an 81% rating for the 107th Congress, and a 68% in the 106th.)

It is virtually certain Isakson will face conservative opposition in the Senate primary. State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, for one, is reportedly set to enter the race. According to a McLaughlin Associates poll, Oxendine leads Isakson among likely primary voters 24% to 15%, with 10% going to Rep. Jack Kingston and 5% to Rep. Mac Collins. Kingston (lifetime ACU rating: 99%) has been sounding out fellow conservatives about making a run. A spokesman for Collins (lifetime ACU rating: 95%) told HUMAN EVENTS he will decide by spring whether to jump in.

"My advice to the White House is to stay neutral in this race," said Southeastern Legal Foundation President Phil Kent, a prominent Georgia conservative.

"White House involvement would take the process of selecting a nominee away from the people," echoed State Party Vice-Chairman Carolyn Garcia. "It should be the people’s right in Georgia to select."

Written By

John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ? and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ? and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â? video interviews that appear on HumanEvents.com. Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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