Collins slams ‘pretend farmer’ Loeffler in Georgia Senate race

It didn't take long for the race for Georgia U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler's seat to take a sharp turn.

An opening volley of attacks between the newly-appointed incumbent’s allies and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins offered a glimpse of just how scathing this Republican feud over Loeffler’s seat will be.

It started over the weekend when the conservative Club for Growth organization unveiled plans to spend $3 million to clog Georgia’s airwaves with attacks scrutinizing Collins’ voting record. The group has been critical of Collins’ 57% score on its legislative scorecard in the last year.

The four-term congressman, who launched his campaign last week with a promise to support President Donald Trump, swiped back with a digital ad highlighting one of the votes the anti-tax group has slammed him for taking: The U.S. House passage of a sweeping farm package.

“Why team up with a Washington special interest group that’s against Georgia farmers?” a narrator in a digital ad asked, as grainy images of Loeffler splashed on the screen.

The ad then invoked the Washington-based group's opposition to Trump in the 2016 election, still a sore spot among some Georgia GOP officials.

“Why team up with that special interest group that tried to defeat Donald Trump and is attacking Doug Collins for defending Donald Trump and voting with Johnny Isakson and David Perdue to save Georgia farmers?”

It closed with an explicit attack on Loeffler, who grew up on a soybean farm in rural Illinois, and an implicit one on Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed her: “Kelly Loeffler: Pretend farmer with rotten friends.”

(Collins' disgust with the group is somewhat newfound: He once touted his scorecard with the club in 2015.)

The intraparty feuding between Collins and Loeffler is just one part of a November special election for Isakson's former seat that pits some of Georgia's most powerful politicians against each other in a complicated proxy battle.

The stakes were raised significantly last week when both Collins and Democrat Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, entered the campaign within days of one another.

Warnock has quickly locked up support from his party's establishment, including Stacey Abrams and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But he's still facing two other viable Democratic rivals in the "jungle" special election contest, which will feature multiple candidates from both parties on the same ballot – and no primaries to filter out nominees.

Other recent AJC coverage of the race:

More: With three major Senate candidates, Georgia political landscape erupts

More: Georgia Republican Senate candidates build early fundraising leads

More: Warnock will have to take care to separate roles as candidate, pastor

More: Georgia Senate: Warnock's Democratic rivals are staying in the race

More: Loeffler pumps $5M into her Senate campaign, raises another $450K

More: With two Georgia Republicans racing for the Senate, eyes turn to Trump