Georgia Senate: Gary Black endorses Doug Collins

Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black endorsed Doug Collins’ bid for U.S. Senate on Wednesday, making him the second statewide Republican official to break ranks with Gov. Brian Kemp and incumbent Kelly Loeffler.

The Collins campaign said Black made the endorsement in a handwritten letter that touted the four-term congressman’s “wonderful record.”

“We trust you to lead. We trust you to defend all life, extend the blessings of liberty and ensure the opportunity for the pursuit of happiness for all of our citizens,” Black wrote in the letter. “Press on.”

Black is among several prominent Republicans to side with Collins against Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat by Kemp in December in part because he hoped she could appeal to suburban women who have fled the party.

She has promised to spend at least $20 million to defend the seat in November’s special election, when she’ll face Collins and 19 other challengers in a free-for-all with no party primary to filter out nominees. That race will almost certainly end in a January runoff between the two top finishers.

Her candidacy has sharply divided Georgia Republicans at a time when Democrats are aiming to upend GOP control of the state.

Besides Kemp, Loeffler's main supporters include Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. She also has nabbed endorsements from several national figures, including former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and ex-U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Collins has responded with recent endorsements from U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson -- the first Republican member of Georgia's congressional delegation to take sides – as well as Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald and former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel.