Today, voters in a hotly contested election in the Peach State will determine whether Georgia- after losing lunatics like Saxby Chambliss, Lynn Westmoreland, Jack Kingston, Paul Broun and Tom Price to retirement, promotion, or defeat- can get back into the race.
Karen Handel, a 55-year-old chronic office seeker, carries the GOP standard in today's special election to replace former House member Tom Price. After years of studying crackpottery as a leader of the House Republican Study Committee and trading pharma stocks on the public payroll, Price now oversees the suppression of gays and the denial of health care in President Trump's cabinet.
Handel has gone a long way on a slender skillset. Her cracker accent notwithstanding, she is a Beltway girl, born and raised in Prince Georges County, Maryland. She dropped out of community college and then dropped out of the University of Maryland.
Naturally, she became deputy chief of staff to the wife of one of America's dimmer vice presidents, Dan Quayle.
She bounced through the sort of midlevel corporate sinecures ambitious young pols hold between elections: Hallmark Cards, CIBA Vision, KPMG. She headhunted herself to Atlanta, turning up as president and CEO of the Greater Fulton County (Atlanta) Chamber of Commerce.
Still not perceived as a first-stringer but well-connected, Handel did a stint as deputy chief of staff to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, now President Trump's secretary of agriculture, in 2002.
Before the year was out she sought and lost, a seat on the Fulton County Commission in a special election.
She tried again in 2003 and won, rising quickly to the chairmanship.
But Karen Handel is never one to leave a seat warm for long. In 2006 she ran for Georgia Secretary of State, an administrative job whose chief benefit is the right to slap one's signature on billions of license renewals every year.
Handel failed to serve a full term, resigning in 2009 to run for Governor. Though she had the canceling-out endorsements of Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, Handel found herself locked in a neck and neck race with Nathan Deal, whose scruples were even more easily overpowered by ambition than hers.
Late in the primary, Deal smeared Handel with the accusation that she had once been a member of the Fulton County Log Cabin Republicans (Deal also whined that Handel ran "a 100 percent negative campaign").
Them's fightin' words among the Georgia GOP. Handel denied the claim nine ways from Sunday but it stuck, and she lost the primary to Deal by four-tenths of one percent.
It stuck because it was true. Politifact Georgia verified it with a "Pants on Fire" rating for Handel's denials.
Gay voters are a big bloc in Fulton County, and Handel pitched her woo to the GOP ones in her two races for the county commission. LCRs tend to be easy marks, swooning over the slightest sign the party is willing to be in the same room with them.
Once elected, Handel threw them over for the bubbas in their pickups. With statewide/national ambitions, Handel's positions and rhetoric have always been pitched over the heads of her moderate GOP constituents in the Atlanta suburbs to the party's base in the rural counties.
So Karen Handel didn't get to be governor. In 2011 she turned up as vice president for public policy at the respected Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Handel set about turning the billion-dollar charity into a platform for her personal animus toward abortion.
Handel cobbled up a new, McCarthyite policy that the Komen Foundation would not fund any group "under investigation" by government. Happily for her, Planned Parenthood is perpetually under investigation by Republicans in Congress.
She persuaded the Komen board the policy would insulate the foundation's good name from bad press. They adopted it; their public health officer resigned on the spot. After four days of withering publicity, the board rescinded the policy.
Handel lasted three days after that. She spent a year writing a screed called Planned Bullyhood, whose wide page margins and double spacing laid out her victimization, and published it in 2012.
She claimed she was martyred over $700,000 in grant money. The Komen Foundation's income fell 22% the year after the Handel escapade.
There's always an election around the bend somewhere, and Handel announced for the US Senate in 2013. She came in third in the primary, even with the increasingly valueless embrace of Sarah Palin.
Every minor leaguer yearns, however improbably, to return to The Show, and Karen Handel jumped into the Georgia 6 special election for Tom Price's Hose seat this spring.
After a decade of orthodox GOP jabber 24/7 she still managed to trail-badly- a Democrat newcomer, Jon Ossoff, in the all-comers primary. Since then she has doubled down on her most extreme positions, and to hoover up $25 million from zanies like the dark money group that said electing Ossoff will mean more Republican congressional murders.
"Shame," Handel muttered. "Shame."
Wayne Gretzky used to say he didn't chase the puck, he figured out where it was going and met it. Handel tries to anticipate where the angriest, spiteful, right-wingers of her party are headed and meet them, proclaiming herself their tribune.
Early in the campaign, she scaled back from what once report called the "antigay benders" of her gubernatorial and senate campaigns:
"It's no secret that I'm called to a different place, maybe, for some of the beliefs in the LGBTQ community because of my faith," Handel said during a press conference announcing her campaign. "With that said, I'm also called to be accepting and compassionate."That got her no traction, so she just redefined acceptance and compassion as, in effect, "I can't deport them or kill them, so they get to stay. Other than that, I got nothin' for 'em."
Handel even opposes civil unions. She is stridently anti-everything, and pro-Trump. She promises to be a Greg Gianforte Republican, ready to bare her knuckles to the namby-pambies who don't know what deconstructing the administrative state is.
She even picked a fight with Ben Jacobs, The Guardian journalist Gianforte beat up last month, on Monday, in the course of explaining civility is what she says it is:
“The lack of civility in society as a whole, some of it, I believe, is very much fueled by social media and frankly, it’s fueled by the fact that journalism is not journalism any more.
There is a lack of civility in society as a whole, social media has been fueling it, journalism has been fueling it
“It’s tabloid. It’s 24/7 news – people get in the middle of a news cycle for 24 hours off of things that previously would never have gotten the kind of coverage that is happening.”
In response to a quizzical follow-up – “So you point the fingers at the journalism, then?” – Handel said: “No, don’t put words in my mouth, Ben.
“I had a very broad sentence. See, this is exactly what happens and why things are really broken. You don’t listen and you put words in people’s mouth.”
The Guardian said: “I was trying to clarify.”
Handel responded: “No, you really weren’t. But what I said was the following: there is a lack of civility in society as a whole, social media has been fueling it, journalism has been fueling it.”
Asked if the issue was partisan, Handel said: “I can only tell you what I have observed in this race. The anger has been from the left with groups of trackers showing up and literally adopting a gang-like posture and virtually stalking individuals.”
Referring to the threats she received in the mail, she added: “Just what I was subject to – that literally we had to have hazmat in our home and people having profanity hurled at them for no reason other than who they are supporting in this race – and it’s interesting to me that it has been very much one-sided.”
Handel’s attitude was shared by some supporters, including JoAnn Birrell, a local elected official, who said: “If you look at the folks who are doing this, it’s all anti-Trump protesters.”
Karen Handel also doesn't know that when you shoot b-roll film, there's an audio track somebody needs to turn down.