Kemp will soon get to pick a replacement for retiring Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down in December because of health issues. Price is an orthopedic surgeon from Atlanta's northern suburbs who represented Georgia's 6th Congressional District from 2005 to 2017, before stepping down to join President Donald Trump's administration. He served for roughly seven months as health secretary before being forced out in September 2017 over the travel expenditures. Trump was also angry with Republicans' failure to repeal former President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
A report from the Health and Human Services inspector general later found that the department wasted at least $341,000 on Price's travel, including by booking charter flights without considering less expensive alternatives. The government spent nearly $1.2 million on the secretary's travel during his seven months in office, the report found.
Price apologized and repaid a small portion of the money. Kemp has opened an unusual online application process to vet candidates for Isakson's seat. The person he ultimately selects will have only 10 months in office before needing to defend the seat in a free-for-all November 2020 special election. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins is among other top Republicans who have submitted applications.
Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia will also be on the ballot in 2020, seeking a second term. The two senate contests have ensured Georgia's status as a must-watch 2020 battleground. Four Democrats have already announced bids against Perdue, including former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff; 2018 Lt. Gov. candidate Sarah Riggs Amico; former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry.
The race for Isakson's seat has so far been a blank canvas. State and national Democrats have been holding meetings to vet potential candidates behind whom they hope the party can unify.