COLLEGE PARK - A former longtime TV newsman announced Monday he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss next year.
"My conscience will no longer allow me to stand on the sidelines and simply comment on what I see," Dale Cardwell, 44, formerly of Atlanta's WSB-TV, told supporters outside his campaign headquarters near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. "It's time we take the fight to a new level."
Cardwell, who has never run for public office before, said he will campaign as an outsider against the special interests in Washington personified by Chambliss, who was elected to the Senate in 2002 after serving four terms in the House.
Cardwell vowed not to accept contributions from political action committees or Washington lobbyists.
"I'm going to be able to raise money from people who have never been politically active before because they don't trust Washington," he said.
Cardwell is the first Democrat to formally enter the race to deny Chambliss a second term.
DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones has formed an exploratory committee and is accepting contributions. However, he hasn't filed papers to make his candidacy official.
Both Jones and Cardwell are hitting Chambliss in a perceived soft spot, his support for a comprehensive immigration reform bill making its way through the Senate.
The incumbent has come under a barrage of criticism in Georgia for helping put together the bipartisan legislation, including being booed by fellow Republicans last month at the party's state convention.
Cardwell said the federal government is not moving aggressively enough to build a fence along the nation's border with Mexico or in developing a high-tech worker verification system.
As a result, he said, illegal immigrants are pouring in and taking jobs from Americans.
"Salaries in Georgia have been held hostage for too long by an undocumented and exploited work force," he said. "Special interests need the cheap labor that is flooding into our country."
Unlike some Democrats in Congress, Cardwell said Americans troops can't simply withdraw from Iraq. He said continued U.S. involvement should be made contingent upon the government and people of Iraq meeting benchmarks for stepping up their participation in governing and policing themselves.
Cardwell said he would go to Washington as a conservative Democrat in the mold of former Sen. Sam Nunn. He said he would uphold such conservative values as lower taxes and smaller government.
The Kentucky native worked at WSB as a consumer reporter and investigative journalist for 11 years. Before that, he worked at TV stations in Birmingham, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn.
He lives in DeKalb County with his wife and two children.