WASHINGTON — Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican who helped lead efforts to find a bipartisan deficit reduction compromise, announced Friday that he would retire at the end of 2014, a decision likely to set off a battle on the Republican Party’s right flank for a successor.
Already, organizations backed by the Tea Party movement were stirring interest in a primary challenge for Chambliss over his embrace of new revenues as a part of any comprehensive deficit package. Representatives Tom Price and Paul Broun, two Republican doctors and ardent conservatives from Georgia, had expressed interest in a possible challenge.
But without Chambliss in the picture, the Senate contest in Georgia could shape up to be a battle royale on the right. Other possible candidates could include Herman Cain, a failed presidential candidate, and Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state who ran for governor in 2010 with the backing of Sarah Palin. Handel lost that contest but went on to a senior position at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer foundation, where she championed a controversial move to withhold financing for Planned Parenthood cancer screenings.
In a statement, Chambliss said he did not fear losing a primary challenge. ‘‘Lest anyone think this decision is about a primary challenge, I have no doubt that had I decided to be a candidate, I would have won reelection,’’ he said.