Former Komen exec. who pushed to defund Planned Parenthood weighing Senate bid

By Jonathan Terbush
Thursday, November 22, 2012 12:13 EDT
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Former gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel, via Mike Kerfeld on Flickr
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Karen Handel, the former Susan G. Komen for the Cure executive who spearheaded the group’s effort to cut all funding to Planned Parenthood, is weighing whether or not to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, according to the Weekly Standard.

A former aide to Handel who worked on her failed 2010 gubernatorial bid told the magazine that she was considering challenging Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) to a primary contest in 2014. Kay Godwin, a co-chair of Georgia Conservatives in Action, said she was hearing similar noise about a possible primary challenge, according to the Standard.

Handel fell 2,500 votes shy of winning the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2010, losing a runoff to then-Rep. Nathan Deal, who went on to win the general election. That primary drew wide national attention from party heavyweights, with prominent names like Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee backing Deal, and Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney endorsing Handel.

Handel ran on a staunchly anti-abortion platform in 2010; Palin said she offered her endorsement in part because Handel would “walk the walk” on curbing abortion.

Yet Handels’ rise to notoriety came this year when, as a top executive at Susan G. Komen, she became the figurehead for the group’s decision to terminate funding to Planned Parenthood amid the broader national push by Republicans to defund the organization. Susan G. Komen, the nation’s largest breast cancer charity, had for years given thousands of dollars annually to Planned Parenthood in the form of grants for cancer screenings, but Handel argued the money could fund abortions, and so should be discontinued.

The announcement by the Komen foundation sparked a fierce backlash, and three days later, the group reversed course and announced the funding would not be pulled after all. Within the week, Handel resigned. 

Chambliss, who has served in the Senate since 2003, has drawn the ire of conservatives back home for his perceived shift toward the center on immigration and other issues. Challenges from the right successfully upended incumbent Republicans in the past two election cycle, including Indiana’s Dick Lugar this year.

Jonathan Terbush
Jonathan Terbush
Jon Terbush is a Boston-based writer whose work has appeared in Talking Points Memo, Business Insider, the New Haven Register, and elsewhere. He tweets about politics, cats, and baseball via @jonterbush.
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