Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said on Thursday that he hasn’t ruled out a campaign for retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R) seat in 2020, raising the possibility of a challenge to incoming Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R).
Loeffler, a wealthy finance executive and Republican mega-donor, was tapped by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) this week to replace Isakson in the Senate when he steps down at the end of the year.
But that appointment amounts to an 11-month stint in the chamber, and she’ll face a special election next year to decide who will finish out the rest of Isakson’s term, which expires in 2022.
President Trump and his allies had pressed Kemp for weeks to appoint Collins to Isakson’s Senate seat. Kemp ultimately bucked the president’s wishes, however, opting instead to choose Loeffler, a political outsider who Kemp and his allies believed could help the GOP reclaim suburban voters, especially women, who have fled the party in recent years.
In an interview with NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Thursday, Collins said he was too consumed with the ongoing impeachment inquiry in the House to think about a 2020 Senate run. But he added that he hadn’t ruled it out and would “deal with that” after the impeachment process is wrapped up.
“We’ll make a statement or we’ll deal with that after the fact. I’m not … ruling it out,” Collins said.
“I’m just simply stating a fact of where we’re at right now,” he added. “For my constituents, the state of Georgia and the country, I’m in a position right now that has historical lights on it. I cannot be distracted from whatever I have to do up here to anything else.”
It wasn’t the first time Collins has suggested that he may run for Isakson’s seat in 2020. Even before the formal announcement of Loeffler’s appointment on Wednesday, Collins had said that he was “strongly” considering a bid for the seat if he wasn’t appointed by Kemp.
But his comments on Thursday were his most explicit since Loeffler was named as Isakson’s replacement. In a statement on Wednesday, Collins said he respected Kemp’s decision and would focus for the time being on “defending our president against partisan impeachment attacks.”
Loeffler’s appointment has sparked frustration among Trump’s allies and the Republican grassroots, who have questioned her conservative bonafides and believe Collins should have been chosen to replace Isakson. That frustration has opened up something of a rift in Georgia’s Republican coalition that Democrats are hoping to capitalize on in 2020.
Still, Loeffler will enter the 2020 special election with several advantages. She has the full backing of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. She’s also planning to spend $20 million of her personal fortune on her campaign.
Unlike a regularly scheduled election, there will be no primary to choose the Democratic and Republican nominees for the Senate seat. Instead, candidates of all parties will appear on a single ballot in November. If no candidate manages to win a majority in that election, the two top finishers will face each other in a run-off election tentatively set for January 2021.