ATLANTA — Now Georgia Democrats have a candidate to rally around in the race to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
Branko Radulovacki entered the race last month when he filed papers with the Federal Election Commission, but his press release didn’t begin to filter to political reporters until last week.
Nicknamed Dr. Rad, the Atlanta psychiatrist is a political newcomer who is still formulating his positions. He describes himself as a moderate.
“I believe in personal freedom balanced with individual and collective responsibility,” he said. “I am for fiscal self-control offset by wise investing (both short- and long-term). I support good health care for all (I am, after all, a physician) but feel we must confront issues of cost, need and allocation of limited resources.”
What that means on individual topics remains to be seen.
His candidacy ended the party’s plan to anoint Michelle Nunn in an uncontested primary. She hasn’t even said she intends to run.
Other than having a father who was a senator, Nunn has little advantage over Radulovacki. And considering the Nunn name last appeared on a Georgia ballot before many primary voters were born or moved to the state, even that is of marginal advantage.
Radulovacki probably won’t be heard from much in the coming months other than appearances at party breakfasts and barbecues. If he’s smart, he’ll be busy though.
These informal conversations will give him practice answering questions and honing his message before meeting the press. While the Georgia press corps is tame compared to states like New York, there is still opportunity for peril in addressing a dozen political reporters who likely know the issues as well as most veteran politicians.
Rookies often aren’t sensitive to how their comments can be taken out of context by opponents.
Experience is the best teacher, of course, and it helps to gain that experience in a lower-profile position. Radulovacki hasn’t even been on Facebook until now.
Nunn has had a slightly higher profile. While Radulovacki launched his own foundation, FaithWorks, and received national recognition as a “Top Doc,” Nunn’s charity, Points of Light Foundation, has ties to national figures such as former President George H.W. Bush. Presumably, that gives her a head start in knowing how to fundraise. And Nunn’s father’s contacts could help her. Radulovacki has contacts in the faith communities.
Radulovacki has a compelling story. He came to the United States from Yugoslavia at age 7, earned degrees in management, Russian and economics and was a Wall Street banker before entering medical school. His academic pedigree includes Yale, Amherst and the University of Chicago.
Plus, he’s a survivor, having had stage 3 colon cancer.
And he’s an ultra-marathon competitor, which means races over distances of 42 miles lasting sometimes for days. That kind of stamina could serve him well through the grueling physical and mental demands of a challenging campaign in a state that still favors Republicans.
The 2014 Democratic Senate primary may not shape up the way party faithful envisioned. But a spirited contest will raise the eventual nominee’s game, not to mention name recognition.
(Walter Jones is the Atlanta bureau chief for Morris News and has been covering Georgia politics since 1998. Follow him on Twitter @MorrisNews and Facebook or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and (404) 589-8424.)