See the full article about the race shaping up between Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins here.
Our interview with Loeffler can also be found here.
Emma Hurt: Why did you decide to step out and risk the ire of your party and run for the seat?
Doug Collins: Well, the funny thing about it is the only ire that I really risk is the Senate committee and the Incumbent Protection Unit in Washington, D.C. And also, of course, I guess Gov. Kemp because he wants to protect the integrity of his pick. What’s been amazing is, is the Republican Party in Georgia has been very responsive and overwhelmingly good to us as we travel around the state and worked with them. And they’re encouraging us to run.
EH: Six months ago, one could argue that you were in the inner circle of Washington with big support from President Trump and a national profile. How does it feel to be blacklisted now by the National Republican Senatorial Committee?
DC: Well, if that’s what they want to do, then I’ll just consider it a badge of honor because of the work that we’ve done over not just the past year, but the last seven years up here on which we’ve actually worked with President Trump. And, you know, our bill, the criminal justice bill, the First Step Act was our bill. We did a Music Modernization Act. We’ve done stuff that dealt with intellectual property, trade secrets and the like. We’ve actually been one the most productive members of Congress. And over the past year, I would argue we’ve been one of the most steadfast defenders of the president and still enjoy his confidence and trust because we worked together on so many things. So, look, the problem I’m seeing here is they have a weak candidate that they believe, because that’s why they’re attacking me. They’ve spent $10 million approximately for this day to never happen. And they’re gonna spend more. That’s what they said. But they never wanted me to qualify because they knew that if I qualified, that I would win. But look, we’re ready. Bring it on. I tell you what I would like to see is instead of running her ads, why don’t we just go round to each of the counties in the state or in these congressional districts and have a debate? I’ll stand on any stage, anytime, anywhere. And we’ll debate issues. The problem is, I don’t think she wants to do that. But if she’s willing, I’m willing. Tell me when and where.
EH: How many consultants do you think you’ve lost because of the National Republican Senatorial Committee blacklists?
DC: We lost a few, which was pretty interesting. And actually, it’s really helped us out because the ones we’ve gained have more of a national profile. They have more of a what I’ll call a little bit of an insurgent mentality. And they think outside of the box. And I think that’s been great. Now did it slow us down a little bit? Sure. But we’re back on track now. And, you know, we feel really good about the team that we’ve assembled for this.
EH: You’ve said that Sen. [Kelly] Loeffler is running a “Mike Bloomberg-style campaign.” What do you mean by that?
DC: Spending a lot of money, but not actually engaging with the press, engaging with questions. What we’re just simply saying is if you want to have these ideas, and she is the sitting senator and I’m a sitting congressman, let’s have the debate. Let’s talk about this. This is what ideas are about, because the Senate and the Congress is an interesting world right now. We have to debate ideas. We have to work well with this president. But we also have to fight back against the Democrats from our perspective, who want to take us in a different direction. And what we have seen over time and what the polling shows that if she was left to be the only candidate, there’s a real chance she could lose to the Democratic candidate. So that’s why we’re in this race. We’re going to continue to fight for this race to keep Georgia red, make sure that David Perdue is reelected and make sure that Donald Trump is reelected to a second term.
EH: Self-funding, as we all know is something many people have done, including David Perdue. Is it the fact that she’s spending her own money that you’re critiquing? Or is it more how she’s spending it?
DC: Look, she can spend her money however she wants to, it’s not going to help her. I mean, she can outspend me 10 to 1 and we’re still going to win because you also have to have some substance behind the ad buys and everything that you have. You have to have a purpose and a plan that people can actually connect to. I think the interesting thing for me is, is some of the outside groups, especially like Georgia Life Alliance, which all of a sudden found a sudden infusion of $3 million. They have never endorsed a candidate, never promoted a candidate. They were only around to certify pro-life candidates. In fact, I was around when they got started. I was the emcee of their event last October. And now they spent, you know, several million dollars on mailers to almost every household in Georgia and TV. Where did the money come from? Why is it just for Sen. Loeffler who has absolutely no pro-life background? In fact, if anything, while she was the owner of the dream, actually gave money to Planned Parenthood through a ticket purchasing agreement where they gave a revenue share to Planned Parenthood. That would have never flown, if I did had done that. So look you can spend money anyway you want, is not a matter of the actual money, but you do have to engage with the voters and have to be accountable to them. And that’s why elections matter.
[Editor’s note: Sen. Loeffler has repeatedly denied any support for Planned Parenthood. Her response to the Georgia Life Alliance question is in the transcript of her interview, found here.]
EH: You’ve been in politics since 2006. Sen. Loeffler has never run before, but she has the backing of the NRSC, the governor and Sen. Mitch McConnell. So both of you are calling each other establishment candidate, the “swampy” candidate. How should voters sort this out?
DC: Just go on record. Go on what we’ve actually done. I spent six years in the Georgia House. I spent a little over seven years in the Congress. For her to say she’s also a political outsider is a little bit disingenuous when her company and her husband’s company have spent millions upon millions of dollars up here lobbying Congress. So, I mean, first to say, she has no idea of being about politics and also the amount of money that they gave over the years to folks like Mitt Romney, Maxine Waters, you know, folks like that; they’ve been involved in the process. So to simply say she’s an outsider is just not true. I think it’s interesting. I’ll put my record up against anywhere in the world and what we’ve been doing. I think we’ll show that there is a difference in the swamp protecting one of its own and then having that swamp rise up against someone who had been working hard up here.
EH: Was this a split in the Georgia GOP that already existed, do you think? Or is this something that’s just opened up recently?
DC: I think this is the most interesting line of questions I’ve heard in a long time, because the thing is the governor and others are putting out this idea that Doug Collins somehow splits the GOP. I’m not sure how that would actually be true, especially when you get, you know, the fact of how much support we have in the Georgia GOP. I’ve been a part of the Georgia GOP long before many of them ever decided to. But again, it’s interesting to me that just because I’m running and the governor chose to have it as a general election jungle primary that Doug Collins is going to somehow split the party. This is simply a storyline that many in the media have picked up on to simply say that, you know, there’s this conspiracy that Doug Collins could cost this seat. There’s nothing out there. In fact, I would just encourage people to say, ask him, show me that, show how that would actually happen when it’s never happened in the past and won’t happen again here.
EH: You must have known this when you announced to run that your announcement would likely attract more interest on the Democratic side, just given the dynamics here, and attract more money to the Democratic ticket. Does that worry you?
DC: How does me getting into this race in a jungle primary attract any more or any less money from the Democrats? They still have to figure out who their candidate is going to be. One of them is going to have to have enough votes to get into a runoff with either myself or Sen. Loeffler, and it’s going to be me. The idea that I’m attracting money into this race is just again, it’s a narrative being spun by, I believe, the folks in the governor’s office and in the NRSC up here, that somehow me being in a race and exercising our right to run. Look, at this point in time, there’s one person who voted for Sen. Loeffler and that was Gov. Kemp. Now it’s time for the rest of Georgia to have that same vote. And Georgia’s pretty particular about Washington or anybody else telling them who they are, who their senator should be. So this idea that somehow I’m encouraging Democrat response is maybe the Democrats know that I’m the one that can win. If there’s anything in there, as the Democrats know, that they don’t want to face me in the election.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.