Sen. Kelly Loeffler has zero experience running for office. She has run for exactly nothing. Not ever, according to Ballotpedia. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp knew this when he appointed her to retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat. He gambled on the fact that in November, existing Georgia law requires a special election to fill the seat, and that election has no party primary–it’s a “jungle primary” for all candidates.
So far, three Democrats have announced their run for the seat, none of them big names. Matt Lieberman is the son of retired Sen. Joe Lieberman, but he’s never run for anything. Tamara Johnson Shealey was defeated in the 2018 Georgia Senate Democratic primary. Richard Dien Winfield finished third in the Democratic primary for Georgia’s 10th Congressional District in 2018. None of these Democrats have the resources to take on Loeffler and her $20 million personal war chest.
But Rep. Doug Collins has been campaigning since 2008, and has won 100% of his races. He has an organization; he has statewide connections; he has national name recognition due to his front-and-center appearance in the impeachment hearings; and he has the support of the president.
Collins is a formidable challenger for newbie Loeffler. And we have no idea if she can campaign, let alone win.
Gov. Kemp has said he will veto HB 757, which would add the special election for the Senate race to the May 19 regularly scheduled statewide (non-presidential) primary. It would pit Collins against Loeffler with only a few months to campaign for each of them. It would put one Republican and one Democrat on the November ballot.
The Democrats are moving to consolidate and change their challenger by pressuring Matt Lieberman and Ed Tarver to stand down and bring in Ralph Warnock. Tarver is a Georgia State Senator. Warnock is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Dr. Martin Luther King’s former pulpit. He would be a powerful opponent.
Democrats really want Georgia to go purple, and they want this seat. Now they have a real chance to get it, and the money will flood in. Stacey Abrams will see to it.
It would be very useful to know if Kelly Loeffler can campaign before she gets to November. It would be useful for Gov. Kemp to know this, and useful for every Republican in Georgia to know it.
Maybe Gov. Kemp should think really hard about HB 757 before he whips out his veto pen. I understand that Loeffler deserves the benefit of the doubt, and that Kemp is doing a fantastic job in office. But this is really a huge unknown.
Do we want to find out in November?
Doug Collins isn’t getting out of the way. He’s in the race, and that’s now a fact. Gov. Kemp needs to decide which looks worse: holding the line on Loeffler, and hoping she is an effective campaigner, or possibly losing the seat in November. Sure, he can blame Collins for being a spoiler, but do we really know if Loeffler would win on her own?
I’m beginning to think it would be good to know these things early. If not, I hope Loeffler and Kemp have a plan for this new reality. I know Collins does.