MACON, Ga. — Doug Collins is a lawyer, politician and preacher, a fellow who claims he got the public-service bug after watching his father serve as a Georgia state trooper and his mother assist senior citizens.
Collins served in the Georgia House of Representatives, becoming a good friend and ally of Speaker David Ralston. He’s a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve who served a year in Iraq.
He’s held Georgia’s 9th District congressional seat since 2013, and he’s a loyal supporter of President Donald Trump. The president urged Gov. Brian Kemp to appoint Collins to the U.S. Senate seat that Johnny Isakson vacated Dec. 31 for health reasons.
But Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler instead, and there’s the rub.
Loeffler will serve as Georgia’s junior U.S. Senator until the November general election, when voters will chose someone to finish the final two years of the Isakson term. If the field becomes crowded, there could be a runoff in January if one of the candidates doesn’t get more than 50 percent of the vote.
Collins wasn’t pleased with Kemp’s choice. So he jumped in the race. Loeffler, a billionaire who says she’ll spend up to $20 million on her senatorial campaign, wasn’t pleased that Collins got in the race. In addition to being co-owner of the Atlanta Dream in the Women’s National Basketball Association, she also served as chief executive officer of a subsidiary of financial provider Intercontinental Exchange.
In a political ad currently running statewide, a conservative group that's backing Loeffler accuses Collins – a self-proclaimed tight-fisted conservative – of being a Washington spendthrift who can’t keep his fingers off federal tax dollars.
He’s spent $400 billion and counting of your tax dollars, the ad says. The ad says he voted to raise the debt ceiling and voted to waste $60 billion on welfare programs. He also voted for a trillion dollar budget, funding frivolous projects including 3D models of alligator skulls.
The ad finishes by urging Georgians to call Collins, stop the spending and drain the swamp.
Meanwhile, Loeffler launched a feel-good ad depicting herself as a country girl who grew up on a soybean farm, tended the soil and fed animals.
That prompted Collins supporters to underscore that the pro-Loeffler group accused him of wasting tax dollars by voting for a farm package designed to help farmers across the nation.
The back and forth between Collins and Loeffler has some Georgia Republicans fretting over whether the ruckus could divide the GOP voters and pave the way for a Democrat to win the seat. If that should happen, Republicans fear, the GOP could lose the majority in the U.S. Senate as well.
Since Georgia won't vote on the vacant Isakson seat until November, Collins and Loeffler have plenty of time to continue the attacks or stitch the gaping wounds they’ve already inflicted. As it stands now, there’ll probably more attacks than bandages for the wounds.