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Georgia Senate special election comes down to Kelly Loeffler and Doug Collins matchup for spot in likely runoff

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 10/11/2020 Naomi Lim
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SANDY SPRINGS, Georgia — Georgia's Senate special election looks more like a Republican primary in its closing weeks as appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins compete for a place in the likely runoff.

Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock leads the sprawling 21-candidate field by an average of 6.2 percentage points ahead of the Nov. 3 contest, according to RealClearPolitics. But with an average of 29.7% support, the senior pastor at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Ebenezer Baptist Church falls well short of the majority threshold needed to avoid a Jan. 5 runoff.

With Warnock firmly in front, that leaves Loeffler and Collins, with an average of 23.5% and 21.7% support respectively, to jostle for the runoff's second slot as Georgians decide who will serve the remaining two years of retired Sen. Johnny Isakson's term. And Loeffler's alliance with Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed her to the seat in January, appears to be helping her seal the deal.

At a closed press Loeffler meet-and-greet, Chris Slate, 59, told the Washington Examiner outside a plush hotel ballroom in Sandy Springs that Collins was "selfish" for even jumping in the race.

"It was definitely Brian Kemp's call of who he was going to select," she said. "And I think another reason that he selected Kelly was because he has three daughters. He wants to show his daughters they can be anything they want to be."

Slate touted Loeffler's conservative voting record, how she's taken a stand on issues such as athletes kneeling during the national anthem, and the fact that the millionaire businesswoman, who's married to New York Stock Exchange Chairman Jeffrey Sprecher and owns the Atlanta Dream WNBA franchise, is self-funding her campaign.

"Doug is going to get the 'good old boy' vote.' And he's going to get the women who are 65 and over, and who've never had to hold a job," she said.

"Kelly is going to get the career women, the people that are afraid of the Black Lives Matter movement, the quiet Republicans, and she's also going to pull the Trump vote," the Gainesville realtor added.

An hour away from the affluent city north of Atlanta, Gainesville's Melanie Thomas agreed Loeffler was an exemplar for girls and young women. And Gainesville, a gateway into Georgia's all-important agriculture community, has been represented by Collins since 2013.

"With us being in the Deep South, it's still that 'good old boy' mentality that's really threatened by women who can hold their ground," Thomas, a 46-year-old caregiver, said while waiting for an appointment in the city's main square. "It's something that she can overcome, but it is definitely a detriment to her.

But Loeffler's relationship with Kemp kept popping up in the Washington Examiner's conversations with Republicans at a GOP Sen. David Perdue campaign event in the staunchly conservative area.

Elizabeth Chappelle, 65, defended Collins, the hometown favorite. For Chappelle, the former top House Judiciary Committee Republican during President Trump's impeachment, who still preaches as a U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain, was "closer to the people."

"She’s about money and money, and I do not like her ads," the retired teacher said. "But she has Kemp behind her, and people like him. I like Kemp, I voted for him. His backing will sway people."

Norma Patterson, too, mentioned Kemp, the first-term governor and ex-Georgia secretary of state who received national attention in 2018 for his disputed gubernatorial election against Democratic darling Stacey Abrams.

"She’s friends with Governor Kemp. I think that’s what people mostly look at with her, but I’m skeptical of her," the Danielsville homemaker, 55, said of Loeffler.

Dale Perry, 65, a Gainesville lawyer and family friend of Collins, ripped Loeffler for her lack of political experience and contributions she and her husband have made to liberal candidates and causes.

"Kelly Loeffler, living in her big mansion up in North Atlanta, not having to worry too much about managing a family budget, I don't think she has any grasp of the common problems of Georgians," he said.

"She has big pockets, and she has the support of McConnell," he continued of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "I don't believe the people of Georgia are going to sell their Senate seat."

Although Perry shrugged off Loeffler's business success to "marrying the boss," it didn't seem to bother voters less personally invested in the contest, including Gainesville resident Kevin Leachman, 34.

"Financial background is neither here nor there. It's what she can bring to the table, I feel, personally. Look at Trump," Leachman, who's in manufacturing, told the Washington Examiner outside the Perdue event.

With roughly three weeks to go until Election Day, the stakes couldn't be higher for the Loeffler-Collins matchup. The victor has mathematics on their side for the run-off as Warnock's current level of support is less than Loeffler and Collins' combined vote share.

Early voting in Georgia starts Oct. 12.

Tags: News, Georgia, Senate, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, Senate GOP, 2020 Elections

Original Author: Naomi Lim

Original Location: Georgia Senate special election comes down to Kelly Loeffler and Doug Collins matchup for spot in likely runoff

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