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Republican passes on primary challenge to Governor Brian Kemp encouraged by Donald Trump
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
ATLANTA (CFP) — Former Georgia Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins has announced he won’t seek any statewide office in 2022, deciding to forgo a primary challenge to Governor Brian Kemp or a race against Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock.
In an announcement on Twitter, Collins said he planned to stay active in politics but gave no details of his future plans.
“For those who may wonder, this is goodbye for now, but probably not forever,” he said. “I do plan on staying involved in shaping our conservative message to help Republicans win back the House and the Senate and help more strong conservative candidates get elected here in Georgia.”
Collins, 54, from Gainesville, was elected to represent Georgia’s 9th U.S. House District in 2012 but gave up the seat to run in a special election for a vacant U.S. Senate seat in 2020. He finished third in an all-party contest, which Warnock won in a runoff.
After the 2020 election, Donald Trump, unhappy that Kemp wasn’t doing more to help him overturn his election loss in Georgia, publicly urged Collins to challenge Kemp in this year’s GOP primary.
Collins — one of Trump’s staunchest defenders in the House — could have posed a threat to Kemp with Trump behind him, which has now been removed with his decision not to run.
Kemp has so far drawn only one significant Republican challenger — Vernon Jones, a former Democrat who served as chief executive of DeKalb County before switching parties to support Trump in 2020.
Collins is the second major Republican to take a pass on the Senate race against Warnock, joining former U.S. Senator David Perdue.
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President continues criticism of Georgia’s governor, secretary of state at Valdosta rally
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
VALDOSTA, Georgia (CFP) — In his first major public appearance since November’s election, President Donald Trump urged Georgia Republicans to turn out for January runoffs in two U.S. Senate races that will determine which party will control the upper chamber.
However, at a Saturday night rally in Valdosta, the president continued to insist that he won November’s presidential election and kept up his drumbeat of criticism aimed at Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for not taking action to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the Peach State.
At one point, Trump acknowledged one of his most stalwart supporters, Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, in the audience and asked him, “You want to run for governor in two years?”
While Trump’s appearance was designed to tamp down calls by some of his supporters to boycott the runoffs, the awkward fallout from the presidential race became apparent when Trump invited U.S. Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to speak briefly to the audience — and the crowd began to loudly chant “Fight for Trump” at both of them.
The capacity crowd — most of whom were not wearing masks — waited for hours at the airport in Valdosta for Air Force One to arrive. During Trump’s appearance, which lasted nearly two hours, they chanted “Four More Years,” “Stop the Steal” and “We Love You.”
Trump referred to boycott supporters as “great people” and “friends of mine” and said he understood the impulse to sit out the runoffs to protest the presidential election results. But, he told the crowd, “Don’t listen to my friends.”
“If the other side manages to steal both elections, we will have total one-party socialist control, and everything you care about will be gone,” he said. “If you don’t vote, the socialists and the communists win. Georgia patriots must show up to vote for these two incredible people.”
The certified results from the November 3 election show that Biden beat Trump in Georgia by 12,670 votes, becoming the first Democrat to win the state in 28 years. Two recounts have confirmed Biden’s win, and the Trump campaign’s legal challenges of the result have been turned back in every state and federal court where they have been filed.
But Trump has been publicly and privately pressuring both Kemp and Raffensperger to try to overturn his loss, which he claims was the result of fraud.
“You governor could stop it very easily, if he knew what the hell he was doing,” Trump said. “For whatever reason, your secretary of state and your governor are afraid of Stacey Abrams.”
Abrams was Kemp’s Democratic challenger in 2018 who led a voter registration campaign for the 2020 vote that has been widely credited for Biden’s victory.
Kemp and Raffensperger, who did not attend the Valdosta rally, have both insisted that while they supported Trump in the election, no legal basis exists for them to intervene in the election. And even if the result in Georgia were overturned, that alone would not alone change Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
Raffensburger, who has been subjected to death threats, has defended the integrity of the election against Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of fraud.
If Democrats win both of those races, the Senate will have a 50-50 tie, with the incoming vice president, Kamala Harris, giving Democrats control in her role as Senate president. If either Perdue or Loeffler win, Republicans will keep control, which would likely be a significant impediment to the incoming Biden administration.
Perdue defeated Ossoff by 93,000 votes in the November vote but was forced into a runoff because he did not receive a majority, as required by state law.
Warnock and Loeffler finished in first and second place, respectively, in an all-party special election for the state’s other seat. Loeffler was appointed to that post by Kemp last year to replace Republican Johnny Isakson, who retired because of ill health.
Collins, who finished third in the special election for Loeffler’s seat, has been publicly supportive of Trump’s fraud claims, prompting Raffensperger to call him a “charlatan.” Collins gave up his House seat to run for the Senate, which will leave him free to challenge Kemp in 2022.
Trump’s endorsement of Kemp in the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2018 was seen as a key factor in his victory — an endorsement the president now says he regrets.
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Democrats are in contention in presidential, U.S. Senate races, poised to pick up another U.S. House seat
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
ATLANTA (CFP) — When the smoke clears from the 2020 election, a whole new political day may have dawned in Georgia.
Democrats appear ready to capture another U.S. House seat, which would give them six out of 14 seats in the state delegation, nearly at parity with Republicans. They also have a shot at both U.S. Senate seats and an outside chance of capturing a majority in the Georgia House.
And, in perhaps the biggest surprise of all, Joe Biden could become the first Democrat to carry the Peach State in 28 years.
That’s a best case, rosy scenario for the Democrats, one which Republicans would no doubt dismiss as wishful thinking. But even if this optimistic scenario doesn’t all pan out, 2020 is likely to go down as the best year state Democrats have had since they suffered a collapse in 2002, losing the governorship and control of the legislature after a decade in which they had lost their grip on the state’s federal offices.
In 2016, Donald Trump carried Georgia by 5 points–enough to get the state’s 16 electoral votes but the weakest showing by a Republican since Bob Dole in 1996. The biggest shock in that race was Hillary Clinton carried both Cobb and Gwinnett counties, which had for decades been impenetrable Republican redoubts in the Atlanta suburbs.
These suburbs, which continued to swing toward the Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections, are key in the presidential race. Trump should get a sizable win in rural areas and small towns; Biden will easily carry the urban cores of the Atlanta and the state’s other cities; so the suburbs will be where this contest is won or lost.
Polls now show the race between Biden and Trump within the margin of error. The biggest sign the state is truly competitive: Both Trump and Biden are making October campaign stops in Georgia, which rarely gets a glimpse of presidential candidates outside of the primary season.
Because of the retirement of Republican Johnny Isakson at the end of last year, both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats are up this year. Republican David Perdue is seeking a second term, and Republican while Kelly Loeffler, a wealthy Atlanta businesswoman and political newcomer appointed to fill Isakson’s seat by Governor Brian Kemp, will try to keep it in an all-party special election.
Perdue is facing Democrat Jon Ossoff, who rose to national prominence in an expensive but ultimately unsuccessful U.S. House race shortly after Trump’s election. At the beginning of the race, Perdue wasn’t thought to be in much trouble, but Ossoff has closed the gap, with polls showing the race within the margin of error.
A major source of contention in the race has been the coronavirus epidemic, with Ossoff hitting Perdue for downplaying the severity of the disease during the early days of the pandemic and voting to dismantle Obamacare, which Ossoff says has provided a lifeline to virus victims.
Perdue has hit Ossoff over his fundraising from out-of-state sources, charging that Ossoff’s contributors support a “radical socialist agenda” that he would pursue as a senator.
Ossoff has raised nearly $33 million, much of it in small dollar online contributions from Democratic donors across the country. Perdue has raised about $21 million.
Because of a quirk in Georgia law, if neither Perdue or Ossoff break 50%, they will face each other in a January runoff, which could happen if a Libertarian candidate also in the race draws off enough support.
In the special election, 20 candidates are running, and polls show three are competing for spots in a January runoff: Loeffler; Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins from Gainesville, who has been trying to run at Loeffler from the right; and Democrat Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, a pulpit once held by Martin Luther King Jr.
Warnock has surged to the front in the latest polls, consolidating Democratic support with an ad blitz. Loeffler and Collins are running neck-and-neck for the second spot, in a race that has divided state Republicans into two camps.
Collins, one of Trump’s most vocal defenders during last year’s impeachment fight, decided to challenge Loeffler after Kemp passed him over for the Senate appointment. But he has so far not gotten the president’s endorsement, and Loeffler has been battling him for supremacy on the right by firmly embracing Trump and taking conservative stands on social issues.
One key metric to look at on election night will be whether the Republicans in the race collectively attract more votes overall that the Democrats, which could be a sign of things to come in the runoff.
Warnock has raised the most money, at $22 million, but Loeffer has more money to spend, after tapping her considerable personal fortune for $23 million in loans. Collins trails at $6 million.
Depending on results in other states, control of the U.S. Senate could hinge on two runoff elections in Georgia in January — a circumstance that would attract massive amounts of money and national attention to the Peach State.
Two years ago, Democrat Lucy McBath flipped the 6th District seat, defeating Republican Karen Handel, Handel is back for a rematch, but McBath — like other freshmen Democrats defending seats in districts Trump won in 2016 — has raised a mountain of money, nearly $8 million, to less than $3 million for Handel
Trump won this district by less than 2 points in 2020. Demographic changes, including more minority voters, are also contributing to its shift from red to purple, and most election handicappers are giving McBath the edge.
Handel will need a strong margin from East Cobb and North Fulton counties to offset McBath’s strength in more diverse areas such as Sandy Springs and Doraville.
In the 7th District, Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, who lost this race by just 400 voters in 2018, is back for another try, facing Republican Rich McCormick, a physican and retired Marine pilot. (The Republican incumbent, Rob Woodall, retired.) Bourdeaux also enjoys a fundraising advantage, $4.7 million to $2.4 million.
The largest population center in this district is Gwinnett County, where Democrats have been winning legislative seats and county offices in recent years. White voters are also now a minority here, which should help Bourdeaux.
If both McBath and Bourdeaux win, the Georgia delegation will be split 8R and 6D, closer than it has been since 1994.
In the battle for the state House, Democrats need to pick up 15 seats in the 180-member House to gain control, after picking up 11 seats in 2018. The party is targeting seats in the Atlanta suburbs, where Democrats have been making gains in recent years, although it is unclear if enough flippable seats remain to get to 15.
Democrats would need to pick up eight seats in the 56-member Senate to take control, which is considered much less likely.
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Races in North Carolina, Alabama on national radar; Lindsey Graham faces stiff challenge in South Carolina
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
Fourteen Southern U.S. Senate seats will be on the ballot in November, putting half of the South’s seats in play with control of the chamber very much up for grabs.
Of these seats, one presents a likely pickup opportunity for Republicans, while three Republican incumbents are facing stiff challenges. Three other seats are somewhat competitive but with incumbents still favored, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s race in Kentucky.
Five senators — four Republicans and one Democrat — are cruising toward re-election, with Republicans also likely to keep an open seat in Tennessee. A special election in Georgia with candidates from both parties running in the same race is a wild card that will be difficult to predict — and could potentially decide which part controls the Senate when the dust clears.
Here is your guide to the 2020 Southern Senate races.
Jones has had a target on his back since he won a special election in 2017 over Republican Roy Moore, whose candidacy imploded in a sex scandal. Jones was the first Democrat elected to a Senate seat in the Yellowhammer State since 1992; his vote to convict President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial has put his continued tenure in jeopardy. Tuberville, the former head football coach at Auburn University, is making his political debut, impressively taking out a field of prominent Republicans in the primary, including Jeff Sessions, who held this seat for 20 years before leaving to join the Trump administration. If Jones somehow manages to hang on, it will be perhaps the biggest surprise on election night.
Cunningham, an attorney who served a single term in the legislature 20 years ago and made an unsuccessful Senate bid in 2010, was recruited by Democratic leaders in Washington to run against Tillis, who is seeking a second term after ousting former Democratic Senator Kay Hagin in 2014. This seat was once held by Jesse Helms, and no one has managed to win a second term since he gave it up in 2002. Cunningham has raised $15 million, slightly more than Tillis, and has led consistently in polls. The outcome of the presidential race in this battleground state may be key here. If Donald Trump wins, Tillis is likely to keep his seat as well; if he doesn’t, Cunningham will be in the driver’s seat.
Over the past four years, Graham has become one of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders, after spending much of the 2016 campaign trashing him. That about-face spared him from the kind of primary challenge he had to beat back in 2014, but Harrison, a former state Democratic party chair, is hoping Graham’s association with the president will turn off enough Palmetto State voters to put him over the top. Harrison has raised a staggering $30 million — an unheard of sum for a Democrat in South Carolina — to stay even with the incumbent in the money chase. While polling shows the race is competitive, Trump is expected to carry the state, and the universe of Trump-Harrison voters may be too small to flip this seat.
It’s been a long time since Georgia has been competitive in a presidential or senatorial contest, but polling has shown Ossoff within striking distance of Perdue, who is seeking a second term. Ossoff built a national profile by raising more than $30 million for a special U.S. House election in 2017 that he narrowly lost. He hasn’t raised anywhere near that kind of money this time around, and Perdue enjoys a 2-to-1 fundraising advantage. Democrats insist that the Peach State’s changing demographics and an influx of newly energized, newly registered Democratic voters will lead to victory for Ossoff and Democratic nominee Joe Biden; Republicans scoff at such a scenario as delusional. If Biden makes a serious play for Georgia, it could help Ossoff; if Biden wins, Perdue will need to run ahead of Trump to survive.
Democrats had high hopes for flipping this seat, particularly after Beto O’Rourke nearly took out Ted Cruz in 2018. But O’Rourke passed on the Senate race to make a quixotic bid for president, and Hegar, a former military chopper pilot and Afghan war veteran who lost a House race in 2018, had to spend time and money fighting her way through a primary runoff. Cornyn entered the fall campaign with the benefit of incumbency and a huge financial advantage, in a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1988. This could turn out to be a might-have-been race for Democrats — what might have been if O’Rouke had run instead.
Democratic leaders recruited McGrath for this race, enthused by her prodigious fundraising during an unsuccessful House race in 2018. But running against McConnell in Kentucky is a tall order, and she has not always seemed up to the task. Her campaign had an unsteady launch when she flipped positions on confirming Brett Kavanaugh, and she very nearly lost the Democratic primary after mishandling her response to racial justice protests that have roiled Louisville. After an uneven campaign, she decided change campaign managers in August, which is never a good sign. There’s a reason Mitch McConnell has been a senator since 1985 — he is perhaps the wiliest politician of his generation. His tenure in Washington seems likely to endure.
This race is a rematch of 2018, when Hyde-Smith beat Espy by 8 points in a special election runoff, running nearly 10 points behind what Trump did in 2016. Espy was encouraged enough by his showing to try to take her down again, hoping that the energy unleashed by social justice protests will galvanize black voters, who make up 37percent of the state’s electorate, the highest percentage in the country. However, if he couldn’t beat Hyde-Smith in a lower turnout midterm election, beating her with the presidential election on the ballot, in a very pro-Trump state, is likely to be a tall order.
In this special election to fill the seat vacated by Johnny Isakson, candidates from all parties run in the same race, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a December runoff. Loeffler is trying to keep this seat after being appointed to the post by Gov. Brian Kemp, who opted to pick the political newcomer instead of Collins, one of Trump’s biggest champions in the House. Collins defied the governor to run against Loeffler, splitting Peach State Republicans into two camps.
On the Democratic side, Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, has drawn support from the party establishment who see him as the best option to win the seat. But Lieberman, the son of former Connecticut U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, has resisted pressure to leave the race in favor of Warnock, and polls have shown him remaining competitive. If Warnock and Lieberman split the Democratic vote, it could clear the way for both Loeffler and Collins to meet in an all-GOP second round. If one Republican and one Democrat get through, the outcome of the race is likely to depend on who those two candidates are.
Arkansas: U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R) faces no Democratic competition after the lone Democrat who qualified abruptly left the race. The only person standing between Cotton and re-election is Libertarian Ricky Harrington.
Tennessee: Republican Bill Hagerty, the former U.S. ambassador to Japan, has a much easier path to Washington after the Democrat recruited and financed by party leaders to challenge for the seat lost his primary. He will now face Marquita Bradshaw, an environmental activist from Memphis who harnessed grassroots support to win the primary.
West Virginia: U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R) is not expected to have much trouble against Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin, an environmental activist who gained national exposure when her 2018 race against the state’s other U.S. senator, Joe Manchin, was featured in the Netflix documentary “Knock Down The House.”
Oklahoma: If U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R), as expected, wins a fifth full term over Democrat Abby Broyles, he will be 92 when this term ends in 2026. Broyles, a former TV reporter in Oklahoma City, has run a spirited campaign in which she’s needled the senator for refusing to debate her.
Virginia: Giving the Old Dominion’s increasingly Democratic tilt, U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D) is a clear favorite over Republican Daniel Gade, a former Army officer who was wounded in Iraq and now teaches at American University in Washington.
Louisiana: U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R) is competing in a jungle primary in November and will face a runoff in December if he doesn’t clear 50%. He avoided any major Republican opposition; the biggest Democratic name in the race is Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins.
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Marjorie Taylor Green’s victory in the 14th District primary puts her on track to go to Washington; Andrew Clyde wins GOP runoff in 9th District
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
ROME, Georgia (CFP) — In what may become an ongoing headache for Republican leaders in Washington, Marjorie Taylor Greene — who has been denounced for posting racist and anti-Muslim videos, peddling an anti-Semitic trope and giving credence to the QAnon conspiracy theory — has won the party’s nomination for the 14th District in northwest Georgia, putting her on track to win a seat in Congress in November from the heavily Republican district.
Greene, a businesswoman from Milton who did not even live in the district when the race began, took 60 percent in the Republican runoff to defeat John Cowan, a Rome neurosurgeon who had denounced her as “crazy” and a “circus act.”
After Greene came in first place in June, videos she posted on social media surfaced in which she decried an “Islamic invasion,” said African Americans were “slaves” to the Democratic Party, and pushed a false conspiracy theory that liberal megadonor George Soros had collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.
She also expressed her belief in the validity of QAnon, a conspiracy theory that posits that a secret “deep state” is working to undermine President Donald Trump.
Greene pushed back against the string of negative stories by denouncing them as “fake news” pushed by news media outlets trying to derail her campaign.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — who may soon have Greene in his caucus — called the videos “appalling” but did not get directly involved in the runoff. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise supported Cowan and raised money for him.
The 14th District is solidly Republican. The only person standing between Greene and Congress is Democrat Kevin Van Ausdel, a financial technology professional from Catoosa who has raised less than $20,000 for the race.
The seat opened when Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Graves announced his retirement. Greene was initially running in the 6th District, where she lived, but switched to the 14th District race after Graves announced his departure.
Gurtler, from Tiger, was defeated by Andrew Clyde, who owns a firearms business in Jackson County.
During his four years in the legislature, Gurtler had so irritated Republican leaders that they unsuccessfully tried to defeat him in a primary in 2018. Party leaders who did not want to see Gurtler in Congress pulled out all the stops to support Clyde, who was making his first run for political office and had little public profile before the race began.
Clyde will now face Democrat Devin Pandy, a retired Army veteran and actor from Commerce, who won his party’s runoff.
Like the 14th District, the 9th is also solidly Republican. The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who gave it up to run for the U.S. Senate.