Rep. Doug Collins Enters Georgia Senate Race; Move Likely to Split GOP Vote

GOP Rep. Doug Collins (GA-9) said Wednesday he will run for U.S. Senate in 2020.  He made the announcement during an appearance on Fox & Friends, confirming news reports of recent days.  Collins will compete in the special election to complete the final two years of the seat previously held by Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired at the end of 2019. The incumbent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler was appointed last month by Gov. Brian Kemp to fill the seat until the special election. That decision went against the wishes of President Trump, who had been strongly advocating for Collins.

The move may complicate the GOP path to holding the Senate seat.  Current Georgia law provides that all candidates - from all parties - in a special election appear on a single ballot on Election Day.  If no candidate reaches 50%, the top two move on to a runoff, which will be held on January 5, 2021. Collins entry increases the likelihood of a runoff, as it will split the GOP vote which would have almost entirely gone toward Loeffler.

Allies of Collins in the Georgia State House are attempting to modify the law and hold a more traditional party primary. The supporters believe the very conservative Collins would win a contest against Loeffler, and enjoy full GOP support in November.

If the law is changed, the contest would take place on May 19, when the state holds its general primary election for offices other than president1 1Georgia's presidential primary is March 24.  Among those May primaries are those for Georgia's other U.S. Senate seat, which is up for its regular six-year term in November. That seat is currently held by Republican Sen. David Purdue, who will be seeking a 2nd term.

Collins entry was poorly received by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which is strongly backing Loeffler. In a statement, they said that the move risks both Senate seats as well as Georgia's 16 electoral votes in the presidential election. 

The decision opens up the seat in Georgia's 9th congressional district. It is a deep red district that the GOP will have no trouble holding. Trump won by 59 points over Hillary Clinton here in 2016; with Collins winning a 4th term by a similar amount in 2018.

36 current members of the U.S. House are now retiring or seeking other offices.  

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