Herschel, Loeffler and Collins: What Trump’s list of Georgia co-chairs says about the 2020 race

Kelly Loeffler is Georgia's newest U.S. senator. She was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to fill out the retiring Johnny Isakson's senate term. Loeffler is CEO of the financial services firm Bakkt and co-owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream. Born in Bloomington, Ill., Loeffler grew up on the family farm, where she worked in the soybean fields. In high school, she competed in cross country, track and basketball. Loeffler has degrees from the University of Illinois and DePaul University. She used to work for Inte

News and analysis from the AJC's political team

President Donald Trump's re-election campaign released a list of top Georgia supporters Friday that included two potential Republican rivals in a November race for the U.S. Senate.

Near the top of the list of the campaign's co-chairs in Georgia is U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who has courted Trump's support since she emerged as Gov. Brian Kemp's favorite for the seat months ago.

Her inclusion could be a sign that Trump, whose campaign signs off on each name, has warmed to the newcomer.

A few names below hers is U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a Gainesville attorney who has threatened a run for the Senate ever since Loeffler surfaced. A staunch Trump ally, Collins was initially the preferred pick of the president, who privately lobbied Kemp multiple times to select him. 

Loeffler’s supporters seemed certain to trumpet her role, which is essentially an honorary title. Though Trump has not yet endorsed Georgia’s new senator, he’s also not publicly endorsed Collins – or offered a harsh word about Loeffler. That stalemate is welcomed by Loeffler and Kemp.

(See the list here.)

Loeffler has used her opening days in the Senate to bash a "sideshow" impeachment process and support Trump's policies. She co-sponsored legislation seeking to dismiss the articles of impeachment if House Democrats withhold them from the Senate.

And she backed U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s resolution commending the drone strike authorized by Trump that killed Iran’s leader and triggered the possibility of wider conflict.

Her first ad, released Friday, highlights her support of both pieces of legislation.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 17: House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., speaks during a meeting of the house committee on rules to consider H. Res. 755 Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors on Capitol Hill on December 17, 2019  in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 17: House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., speaks during a meeting of the house committee on rules to consider H. Res. 755 Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors on Capitol Hill on December 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)

Credit: Pool

Credit: Pool

Collins, meanwhile, has repeatedly floated the idea of a challenge once the impeachment trial plays out in the Senate.

Though Loeffler has pledged to spend $20 million on her campaign, Collins' allies say his support among grassroots activists and conservative reputation could cement him a spot in a January runoff.

Since the November vote is a special election with no primaries, multiple Democratic and Republican candidates will crowd the ballot – making it unlikely that any candidate will receive a majority of the vote to win outright.

They aren’t the only influential conservative names on the list. U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is also on the November ballot, is a campaign co-chair. Kemp is, too.

So are the rest of Georgia’s GOP congressional delegation, several statewide elected officials, House Speaker David Ralston and state Sen. Burt Jones, one of the first state lawmakers to endorse Trump.

Also on the list: Nick Ayers, the Georgia uber-strategist who is a former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence; Herman Cain, the one-time presidential candidate; and Herschel Walker, the iconic University of Georgia running back who played in Trump's short-lived United States Football League.

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