Doug Collins announces Georgia Senate bid

Republican Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsWin by QAnon believer creates new headaches for House GOP Andrew Clyde wins Georgia GOP runoff to replace Doug Collins New poll shows tight presidential race in Georgia MORE (Ga.), an outspoken ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE, on Wednesday announced that he is launching a 2020 primary challenge against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.). 

"For months, I have given serious deliberation to the role I should serve that would best benefit [Georgia], the country and Donald Trump," Collins said in a statement on Twitter. "Today, I have officially launched my campaign for Senate to do just that."

Collins, who has represented Georgia's 9th Congressional District since 2013, is one of Trump's closest allies in the House and repeatedly defended the president as Democrats moved forward with an impeachment inquiry in the latter months of 2019. He previously sought a Senate appointment after Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) stepped down from his seat due to health problems. 

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Loeffler, a wealthy finance executive and Republican mega-donor, in December. The selection came despite Trump advocating for Collins to be awarded the seat. Loeffler was officially sworn in to to the upper chamber on Jan. 6. 

Georgia will hold a special jungle primary election on Nov. 3, with the top two performers, regardless of party, facing off in a run-off election. Collins and his allies, however, are pushing for a change to state election law to set up a more traditional primary that would take place in May, The Hill previously reported

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released last week found that Collins had an advantage over Loeffler when it came to favorability. Thirty-four percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of Collins, while just 22 percent said the same of Loeffler. 

As the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, Collins has emerged as an ardent defender of the president. He has frequently denounced Democrats' investigations into Trump during committee hearings and has regularly appeared on cable news to stand by the administration. 

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Loeffler's seat is listed as "likely Republican," according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. But Collins's decision could give Democrats a better chance of flipping the seat, as it sets up a campaign in which he and Loeffler will likely spend millions of dollars targeting each other. 

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) forcefully denounced Collins following the decision. 

“The shortsightedness in this decision is stunning. Doug Collins’ selfishness will hurt David Perdue, Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerAndrew Clyde wins Georgia GOP runoff to replace Doug Collins Black VP politics and the case for Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer New poll shows tight presidential race in Georgia MORE, and President Trump," NRSC Executive Director Kevin McLaughlin said in a statement. "Not to mention the people of Georgia who stand to bear the burden of it for years to come.

"All he has done is put two senate seats, multiple house seats, and Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in play. The NRSC stands firmly behind Sen. Kelly Loeffler and urges anyone who wants to re-elect President Trump, hold the GOP senate majority, and stop socialism to do the same.”  

Asked on Fox News whether an intraparty divide would open up the seat for a Democrat, Collins said he was not concerned about the prospect. 

"We just need to have a process that lets [the voters] decide, lets them choose for themselves how they want to see this vision, Collins said. 

Updated at 7:55 a.m.