Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue took the first steps toward a potential comeback bid by filing campaign paperwork on Monday to explore a challenge against Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.
The Republican’s aides say he still hasn’t decided whether to challenge Warnock next year, though the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier this month he has essentially frozen the field until he decides whether to mount another bid.
A senior Perdue adviser characterized the filing as a necessary legal step, but added that the former senator is “leaning heavily toward” running again. If Perdue runs, the adviser said, he will decide by March 1, put together a campaign team and announce in April.
Another person close to Perdue said the former senator was “keeping the powder dry and all options open” if he decides to pull the trigger.
Perdue was narrowly defeated by Democrat Jon Ossoff in the Jan. 5 runoff, part of a Democratic sweep that also lifted Warnock over Sen. Kelly Loeffler to fill the remaining two years of retired Republican Johnny Isakson’s term.
The former Fortune 500 executive is probably the only candidate who could clear the field of other well-known challengers in 2022, when Warnock is up for a full six-year term that will test how decisively Georgia has shifted to the left.
But two other 2020 Republican Senate rivals are also ruminating on a run: Loeffler and former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who fought throughout the year for a spot in the runoff against Warnock. Both are said to be waiting on Perdue’s decision before they make up their minds.
Several other Republicans could join the fray, a list that includes Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and attorney Randy Evans, a former U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg with ties to Trump and ex-U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Warnock will be a formidable foe. Georgia’s first Black senator, he is the senior pastor of Atlanta’s famed Ebenezer Baptist Church, holding the historic pulpit where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. He defeated Loeffler by roughly 93,000 votes out of nearly 4.5 million cast.