By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service, Elections
Former Georgia governors are weighing in with endorsements in the campaign for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat ahead of the Nov. 3 special election.
Former Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican who served two terms from 2011 to 2019, is backing U.S. Rep. Doug Collins for the Senate seat over Loeffler, who current Gov. Brian Kemp appointed to hold retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat in December.
The endorsement pits Georgia’s most recent governor against its current one in a campaign that has emphasized intra-party schisms between many of the state’s most powerful Republican political leaders.
On the Democratic side, former President Jimmy Carter, who served as Georgia’s governor from 1971 to 1975, handed his support Tuesday to frontrunner Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, who has collected a pile of endorsements from top Democratic leaders and groups.
The endorsements come as the hotly contested Senate race heads down the final stretch with roughly a month left until Election Day, when nearly two dozen candidates from all parties will compete on the same ballot for Loeffler’s seat.
Loeffler, an Atlanta businesswoman, has waged an intense campaign against Collins, the four-term Gainesville congressman, preacher and fellow Republican who has polled neck-and-neck with Loeffler in recent weeks as each seeks to woo conservative voters.
Collins’ campaign has jabbed often at Loeffler’s use of her wealth to buy campaign ads and travel, a sentiment Deal echoed in his endorsement.
“I know that the governor had to make a tough choice, but I’ve made my choice too, and that’s Doug Collins,” Deal said in a statement. “A Senate seat representing the state of Georgia cannot be bought.”
Deal’s backing followed the endorsement of Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, for Collins earlier this month.
Loeffler’s campaign has previously dismissed criticism of her wealth and attacked Collins over his stint as a criminal defense attorney and record of voting in step with former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on certain issues when both served in the state legislature.
More recently, Loeffler’s campaign drew headlines for releasing a pair of ads calling herself “more conservative” than the 5th-century warlord Attila the Hun. She has also pledged to vote in favor of President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Warnock, who has climbed in the polls in recent weeks, also released a new ad Tuesday in which he urges Georgians to “try something different” and vote him into the Senate. He has vowed to vote against Trump’s court nominee and sought to elevate health care as among the top issues in the race.
The endorsement from Carter looks to solidify Warnock’s standing even further as the Democratic frontrunner amid calls for other Democratic candidates in the crowded race to drop out and consolidate support around him.
“Reverend Warnock knows the struggles Georgians are facing in this unique crisis — families losing health care, shuttered rural hospitals and record unemployment — all in the middle of a pandemic,” Carter said in a statement.
Health-care consultant Matt Lieberman, who is the son of former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, has rejected calls to exit the race.
A runoff will be held in January if none of the 21 candidates including Loeffler can win more than 50% of the vote in the Nov. 3 special election.