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Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 2:35am

Senate Conversations: Karen Handel Ready For 'Tough Decisions'

Former Secretary of State Karen Handel is a familiar name to many Georgians. She won that statewide race and gave Gov. Nathan Deal a close contest in 2010.

Now she’s hoping to capitalize on the statewide name recognition and base of support in the crowded Republican primary for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat. Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss announced his retirement last year, sparking a free-for-all for the rare open seat in Congress’ upper chamber.

Handel told GPB in late December that people want someone they trust who is a problem-solver.

“As someone who’s run statewide, that is an advantage in this race,” Handel said. “But more importantly, I am an individual who has a track record of getting things done in the toughest of environments, and we have some tough issues we need to deal with in Washington.”

She pointed to implementing Georgia’s then-new voter identification law as secretary of state and closing multi-million dollar budget holes as party of the Fulton County Commission.

Handel was among a group of Republican Senate candidates who visited GPB’s studios to talk about the campaign and their experience. Some highlights of the interview:

Handel said her involvement in the controversy over Susan G. Komen for the Cure pulling funding to Planned Parenthood taught her people can be vilified for their personal views.
“Unfortunately, in this world, a person’s personal viewpoints can often be used against them. That’s pretty disgraceful in this country, and we see it over and over again.”

Handel said it’s impossible to separate politics from the Komen controversy.

“We made the decision based on what was in the best interests of the fight against breast cancer. Planned Parent did not do mammograms. We knew that. We knew we could do more mammograms if we realigned these dollars. Politics did come into play, but they came into play from Planned Parenthood and, more importantly, from the pro-abortion bullies.

“Komen coordinated with Planned Parenthood. They knew exactly the decision that was made and why, and everything was fine with them until the day they decided it wasn’t fine.”

Handel said trying to get re-elected won’t influence her decisions in the Senate.
“I don’t make decisions based on getting re-elected. I make decisions based on facts and based on what is best and right for the people that I’m serving. And if doing the best, right thing means that I’m going to lose an election, then I’m fine with that. Some tough decisions are ahead for this country. Cutting spending by the amount that we need to cut it to deal with the $17 trillion debt is going to be hard. But having people who are willing to do the hard things, that’s most what we need right now.”

Handel said an “over-burdensome” federal regulatory climate needs a complete overhaul.
“Let’s take the payment-processing sector, which has to deal with some 19 federal agencies. On one day, they have this regulator telling them they have to do “A” and then another regulator saying you have to do “B,” and it’s the exact opposite.

“We need to have an across-the-board audit of the regulatory climate. We want to have good balance between consumer protection, but we don’t want to over-regulate to the point of strangling job growth.

“And then let’s have a sunset law put in place so that no regulation can stay on the books more than 10 years without forcing Congress or the issuing agency to actually stop and consider impacts.”

Handel said negotiation for progress is possible on Capitol Hill without compromising principles.
“As chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners—Fulton County, for your listeners, is four votes for Democrats, three votes for Republicans—so I did not have the ability to just do whatever I wanted. I had no ability to just make things so; I had to work with my colleagues. I did that, but I did it in a way that did not compromise principle and I did it in a way that was in the best interests of the people in the county.

“There was a $100 million budet deficit and a budget on the table with a three mil property-tax increase. I had to make a decision, Was I going to be political and play to the media with political rhetoric and sound bites? Or was I going to be focused on results? I chose results. I understood how far I could cut with my opponents in order to keep their vote or lose their vote, and in the end, put together a budget my colleagues—both Republicans and Democrats—could support so that we dealt with that deficit without a tax increase. We did that every year that I was chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.

“That’s called leadership. It’s having that ability to move people to a place that they would not go to otherwise on their own. That’s what’s missing out of Washington right now. It’s all about sound bites and gamesmanship and how can I kick the can down the road to get re-elected?”

Handel said her lack of Congressional experience will be an asset in the Senate, not a liability.
“Between the three congressmen [in the Republican Senate primary], they’ve been there for a combined 42 years. And look at where we are: $17 trillion in debt driven by reckless spending; highest corporate tax rate in the world regulations that so expansive—something like 81,000 new regs just since 2000. So I would say that their kind of experience is exactly what’s gotten us into the mess that we’re in today.”

She said Congress needs leaders.

“Real leaders find a way to get the job done and deliver results. What we are seeing out of Washington right now are poor results by anyone’s measure. If these individuals—and I’m not just talking about my opponents—these are Republicans and Democrats who own where our country is today.”

Other Senate Conversations:

Click here to listen to our conversation with Rep. Paul Broun (R-Athens).

Click here to listen to our conversation with Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta).

Click here to listen to our conversation with Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah).