Georgia congressman backs Collins’ Senate bid, breaking ranks with Kemp

U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson endorsed fellow Congressman Doug Collins’ bid for the U.S. Senate, making him the most prominent Republican in Georgia to break ranks with Gov. Brian Kemp and his hand-picked selection for the seat.

Ferguson urged Georgia Republicans on Monday to "unify behind Doug and leave the distractions and uncertainty of other candidates in the rearview mirror," a jab at U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler as she tries to address an uproar over her stock transactions during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Doug is a proven leader – a steady hand in tough times. He knows what it takes to lead,” Ferguson said. “Right now, we have lives and businesses and an economy to save – and we don’t need anything to take our focus off that mission.”

Kemp chose Loeffler for the vacant seat in December despite efforts by President Donald Trump to persuade the governor to select Collins, a four-term congressman who was the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

Loeffler, a wealthy financial executive and first-time candidate, has raced to introduce herself to Georgia Republicans – and is fortifying her message with a promise to spend at least $20 million on her election bid.

Though Trump has lavished praise on both rivals since Loeffler took office, Collins has aggressively tried to position himself as the most loyal ally to the president ahead of the November special election.

That contest will feature Loeffler, Collins and 19 other contenders on the same ballot, a vote that will almost certainly result in a January runoff between the two top finishers. Several Democrats are running, including entrepreneur Matt Lieberman, former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver and the Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The governor has tried to rally the party's establishment around Loeffler, who quickly nabbed support from Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. She also has the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and several local conservative groups.

Collins, a favorite of the party’s grassroots base, can count on implicit help from House Speaker David Ralston, a longtime friend who has not formally endorsed anyone in the race.

But Ferguson's support makes him the first Georgia GOP congressman to publicly pick sides in a race that's divided state Republicans even as U.S. Sen. David Perdue, also on the November ballot, avoided a primary opponent.  

A former West Point mayor, Ferguson has quickly moved up the U.S. House ranks since his 2016 election and is now the chamber’s chief deputy whip. He’s also long been an ally to Collins, whom he called Trump’s “No. 1 defender.”

“We knew with absolute certainty where Doug stood from day one, and we know with the same certainty where he will stand in the future,” Ferguson said. “That certainty is critical in these challenging times.”