Two Georgia Republicans duking it out in a special U.S. Senate election paid their fees and filed paperwork to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot Monday, the first day of candidate qualifying in the state.
The early entries make official the head-to-head fight between recently appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins, a GOP congressman challenging Loeffler for the seat.
The two competed for attention with back-to-back news conferences at the state Capitol on Monday as both announced they had officially qualified to run. The race won’t be filtered by party primaries, meaning multiple Democrats and Republicans will share the ballot.
Loeffler was joined by Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed her to the seat following the retirement of Republican Johnny Isakson, who left the Senate at the end of December because of declining health.
“I’m so honored to serve Georgia, and I’m thrilled to qualify for the race in November,” Loeffler said. “I’m running to win.”
Loeffler made little mention of Collins, who had just wrapped up speaking to reporters in the same room minutes earlier.
Collins announced in late January that he would challenge Loeffler for the seat, splitting Republican interests in the process. He took an opening shot Monday at Loeffler’s campaign, saying: “Bring it on.”
“We’re ready for this. Georgia knows who the conservative is in this race. They’ve been watching, they know that I’ve been fighting for the values that they hold dear,” Collins said.
Collins qualifying announcement means he’s moving full steam ahead in the Senate race and will give up his seat in the U.S. House. It also signals that President Donald Trump’s efforts to broker a deal and spare the GOP from the infighting have been unsuccessful. Trump recently said he was considering Collins for director of national intelligence, but Collins said he wasn’t interested.
Democrats Ed Tarver, Matt Lieberman and Raphael Warnock have also announced that they are running in the special election. If no candidate receives a majority of votes in November, the top-two vote getters will advance to a January runoff.
Republican Sen. David Perdue, who is running for reelection to a second term in Georgia’s other U.S. Senate race, was also at the Capitol on Monday qualifying. Perdue touted the economy and federal deregulatory efforts, while repeatedly saying he was staying out of the Loeffler-Collins matchup.
“I’m taking a hard side on the Republican side. I don’t want to go down the road the other side is talking about right now,” Perdue said.
Democrats Jon Ossoff, Teresa Tomlinson and Sarah Riggs Amico are vying to challenge Perdue.
Democratic U.S. Rep John Lewis qualified for what would be his 18th term in Congress despite announcing in December that he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Lewis said Monday that he was inspired by his annual trip to Selma, Alabama, on Sunday, where marchers recreate the voting rights march where Lewis was gassed and clubbed.
“I’m ready to run the race. I never considered not running. I’m getting better. I’m feeling good, I feel stronger and stronger,” Lewis said.
Georgia’s qualifying period will run through Friday at noon. Both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats, as well as all 14 U.S. House seats and 236 seats in the state legislature, will be up for grabs in November.