Congressman Doug Collins intends to challenge Senator Kelly Loeffler, the incumbent Republican Senator from Georgia. Loeffler was appointed by Governor Brian Kemp to replace Senator Johnny Isakson.
Collins wanted the appointment, did not get it, and so will challenge Loeffler. To do so, he is being aided by Democrats in the Georgia House and a Collins political ally, the scandal plagued Speaker of the House, David Ralston.
With friends like these, perhaps Collins should think again.
The strategy is to get the rules of the election changed, even though the process has begun. In special elections in Georgia, all the candidates are on a so-called “jungle ballot.” Democrats and Republicans together pile into the race and the top two vote getters battle it out in a runoff unless one gets over fifty percent.
Governor Kemp chose Loeffler as a self-made businesswoman who could appeal to suburban demographics and expand the GOP base. The calculation on Collins was that he could hold the GOP base, but not expand it as Georgia continues to drift demographically. The Governor was right on this front.
Collins and the Democrats now seeking to change the rules in the middle of the game reinforcing both the desperation on the Democratic side to not split the field in a jungle ballot scenario and also Collins’ recognition that he can’t beat Loeffler outside of a primary scenario.
Unfortunately for Collins, the Governor will veto the legislation and Collins will be on the jungle ballot. Loeffler already has cash on hand the same amount of money Brian Kemp spent total in 2018 to win against Abrams.
Loeffler, of course, will have problems. She has not defined herself at all yet. Her social media presence seems too forced. She hasn’t really shown Georgia who she is while all the Republicans know Collins. Loeffler is not going to out Trump support Collins, so now maybe she should be free to be her actual self instead of the Trump clapping automaton some would have her be to win. Loeffler has left herself open to being defined by her opponents and now they are going to try hard.
But Loeffler will have an ally in Brian Kemp, who just won a statewide campaign. She’ll have his political team and a massive war chest. Collins, on the other hand, will have national conservative groups, but also a tainted Speaker and a narrative that he worked with Democrats to change the rules.
On top of that, Governor Kemp will have to win. This is a challenge to his authority by a scandal plagued Speaker of the House. Kemp will have to win to avoid a level of lame duck attitude towards him. To win, Collins will have to lose.
That puts Collins in a political fight he hasn’t really had before against a very popular governor. It also will divide conservatives in the state at the very moment they need unity. It will consume resources that are better spent on helping Perdue and helping the state GOP hold the General Assembly. It will consume resources better spent in other states.
This won’t end well for the Georgia GOP and will cause serious fractures. It is a mistake.