- Associated Press - Thursday, April 15, 2021

ATLANTA (AP) - Latham Saddler, a Navy veteran and former Trump administration official, has joined the Republican race to challenge Georgia Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in 2022.

Saddler announced his candidacy Thursday, calling for patriotic unity. He’s the second Republican to get into the race, after Marietta contractor Kelvin King announced his run Monday.

Others are also likely to seek the GOP nomination. Warnock, who defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler in a January runoff, has to run again in 2022 for a full six-year term in the Senate because he’s filling the unexpired term of retired U.S. Sen Johnny Isakson.

Saddler was a Navy SEAL whose last active duty assignment, after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was working for the National Security Council. He stayed on in Washington with President Donald Trump’s administration, winning a competitive White House fellowship and working in the Office of American Innovation. More recently, Saddler worked for a year as chief of staff to Kessel Stelling, the chairman and CEO and Columbus-based bank Synovus Financial Corp.

“Today I see America being challenged abroad like never before by a rising communist China,” said Saddler, a 38-year-old Atlanta resident, in his announcement video. “Meanwhile, Americans are fighting with each other here at home and our country is being undermined from within by a broken political system lacking authentic leadership.”

A number of other Republicans are considering challenges to Warnock, whose victory, along with fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff, gave their party narrow control of the Senate.

Saddler said he should be the option for voters who view China as an existential threat and see the solution as unity under conservative leadership.

“I want to ignite the patriotism in every American,” he told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

He said Warnock and fellow Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff failed to stand up for Georgia against attacks on the state after Gov. Brian Kemp signed a restrictive new election law that Warnock and others say unfairly makes it harder for people to vote.

Sadler said Warnock, who has called for companies to speak out against the law but has not called for boycotts, should have done more to push back against Major League Baseball’s decision to shift the All-Star Game from the Atlanta Braves stadium to Denver.

“Where’s the leadership?’ Sadler asked. “Who’s defending Georgia?”

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