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SPIGOLON: Can Georgia Republicans keep it together?
Loeffler speaks
Kelly Loeffler speaks at a news conference after Gov. Brian Kemp introduced her as his choice to fill an upcoming vacancy in the U.S. Senate at the state Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, Dec. 4, 2019. Flanking Loeffler are Kemp at left and state House Speaker David Ralston at right. – photo by Mary Grace Heath, governor's office

Even if Doug Collins somehow gets into a runoff and wins Georgia’s U.S. Senate seat now held by Kelly Loeffler, what are the chances he can mend the wounds being created in this race among Republicans?

Will the old political adage, “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line,” hold true?

The split among Republicans is evident down to the county level, pitting county party leaders against sheriffs in some cases.

For those living under a rock, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville is giving up his safe 9th Congressional District seat to battle against Loeffler, who was Gov. Brian Kemp’s appointee to one of Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats.

Collins was a very vocal and visible supporter of President Donald Trump during impeachment hearings in January against Trump in the last days of pre-COVID America.

Longtime Georgia congressman and U.S. senator Johnny Isakson disclosed in 2015 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but decided to seek re-election in 2016. He won but, as the disease progressed, he announced he would resign Dec. 31, 2019, which was three years before his term ended.

Kemp — some would say surprisingly — selected Loeffler, the ultra-wealthy wife of the head of a company that owns the New York Stock Exchange, in an effort to regain the support of suburban women who supported Democrats in Georgia in the 2018 election. 

Loeffler also owns Atlanta’s franchise in the Women’s National Basketball Association and pledged to spend millions of her own money on the race.

Collins was well-liked by Republican state lawmakers after serving three terms in the Georgia House before his election to the U.S. House. Trump lobbied Kemp in the early stages for Collins, who also won the public support of House Speaker David Ralston and former governor Nathan Deal.

On the other hand, Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan are among the Republicans supporting Loeffler.

Polls in Georgia races have proven to be not as generous to Republicans as the final outcome showed. Case in point: polls generally showed Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn neck and neck in support days before the 2014 election for U.S. Senate. Yet, Perdue prevailed with 53% of the vote.

Polling in this year’s Senate race show Loeffler and Collins battling for second place and a spot in a runoff with Democrat Raphael Warnock, who is the leader at this point and someone Georgia Democrats have united behind. Warnock appeared to gain the lead under the radar as Loeffler and Collins waged their well-watched battle royale. The Democrat is from Savannah and leads Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. He, like Loeffler before, has no political experience.

During a recent debate, Loeffler accused Collins of backing liberal proposals during his time in the House. She also has criticized him for work as a defense attorney for indigent clients whom judges assigned to his law firm.

Collins claimed Loeffler is a former liberal who hosted people like Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams at an Atlanta Dream game.

Both went after Warnock for not publicly criticizing groups like Antifa, which was alleged to have been in the middle of violent protests this summer. Warnock said he was against any form of violence during otherwise peaceful protests.

I believe either Loeffler or Collins retain the advantage in this race if either get into a runoff against Warnock. Georgia is still an overall Republican state despite strongly Democratic pockets in the metro areas. The question will be whether Collins or Loeffler will be able to keep the party together if either wins. 

Other areas are seeing the same divisions within the GOP. Look at the 14th Congressional District in northwest Georgia where Alpharetta transplant Marjorie Greene moved and defeated a local physician, John Cowan, for the Republican nomination. She is the de facto winner of the seat after her Democratic opponent dropped out of the race.

The race split Republicans in northwest Georgia at a time when voters in the district — which runs from suburban Chattanooga in the north to suburban Atlanta in the south — need to keep the party together amid changing demographics that favor Democrats.

The GOP has held power in Georgia for roughly 18 years after centuries of Democrat rule. In the final years of Democrat power, the party held on through a loose coalition of rural whites and urban Blacks. It fell apart with incumbent Roy Barnes’ loss in the 2002 governor’s race to a then-unknown state senator named Sonny Perdue.

This Senate race and subsequent runoff will be a test of Republicans’ penchant for uniting and being motivated by their hatred for whatever Democrat is in power.

Tom Spigolon is news editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at