The Jolt: Conservative outlets look askance at Kelly Loeffler-Doug Collins battle

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.

The battle between incumbent U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins spread to conservative media outlets on Monday, after the Senate GOP campaign arm leveled a bitter attack on Collins, with more coming today.

Both Collins and Loeffler qualified for the Nov. 3 all-comers election in which they will be on the same ballot with Democrats, Libertarians and at least one independent.

Just before noon Monday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee issued this broadside:

"Since announcing his Senate candidacy, DC Doug Collins' own polling shows that his campaign has been in a freefal….Collins is on a self-serving, spite-fueled, political kamikaze mission that threatens to take down President Trump, the Republican majority in the United States Senate, two Senate seats and multiple House seats."

Look for this TV ad from the Senate Leadership Fund to hit soon, accusing Collins of consorting with liberals, and attacking his work on criminal justice reform at the state and federal level – efforts that have been backed by Gov. Nathan Deal and President Trump. A bit of the script:

"…A criminal defense lawyer fighting to get bad guys out of jail. In the Georgia House, Doug Collins teamed up with liberal Stacey Abrams to let some convicted murderers avoid the death penalty.

"And in Congress, Doug Collins teamed up with liberals to allow early release for some sex offenders. Doug Collins: A criminal's friend, and a conservative's nightmare."

The Daily Caller took note of the NRSC attack. As did hard-right radio host Mark Levin, who took aim at another ad via Twitter: "Mitch McConnell is at it again. He's using his Senate funding group to smear Doug Collins in support of another RINO."

So did Lou Dobbs of Fox Business News. "That's really nasty stuff," Dobbs said last night.

Now as to the facts of that TV ad cited above. From the Collins campaign on his activities in the state House:

The advertisement claims that Congressman Collins teamed up with liberals to "let some convicted murderers avoid the death penalty." In support of this salacious claim, the advertisement cites Georgia House Bill 1298 (hereinafter the "HB 1298").

However, HB 1298 does not even remotely "let some convicted murderers avoid the death penalty". Instead, this one-page bill proposed a change to the standard of proof by which a court might find a defendant to be "guilty but mentally retarded" from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to a "preponderance of the evidence."

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in Atkins v. Virginia that sentencing a mentally disabled person to death violates the Eighth Amendment. In the years after Atkins, the constitutionality of Georgia's death penalty law came into question.

This bill was one of multiple attempts by the Georgia Legislature amend the standard of proof for determining that a defendant is mentally incompetent. Contrary to the suggestion in the advertisement, it would not apply retroactively and thus would not apply to anyone convicted of murder.

Over at Hot Air about a month ago, Taylor Millard takes up Collins' criminal justice reform efforts in Congress. His conclusion:

Collins is not a candidate I would support for Senate due to his stances on foreign policy, general government spending, mass surveillance, and American military intervention. It is likely his decision to run for Senate is based on self-interest and the fear Loeffler is not enough of a Trump supporter.

However, it's a major mistake to criticize his position on justice reform. It's a policy driven by conservatives who realize the current system isn't working and costing the government too much taxpayer dollars. Shouldn't conservatives be in favor of reducing the burden on taxpayers, especially when crime is down in the country?

As for Collins himself, on Monday he challenged Loeffler to a series of one-on-one appearances.

“You can spend your millions, but we’re going to have debates. In fact, let’s have a lot of debates. Let’s have them all over the state,” Collins said. “Because ideas matter, and I have no problem with my ideas, and what I’ve done for the state of Georgia.”

***

U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will be among those attending a private coronavirus briefing from Vice President Mike Pence today.

Pence is meeting with Republicans and Democrats separately over lunch to update chamber members about the U.S. response to the what is increasingly becoming a global health crisis.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced late Monday that Georgia now has its first two coronavirus cases. Both are connected to one patient's recent trip to Italy.

Members of Congress are working out the details of what could be a more than $7 billion emergency spending package to aid U.S. public health officials in treating and preventing the spread of the respiratory disease.

***

Qualifying for political office in Georgia continues at the state Capitol through noon Friday. Taped on a second-floor door, where the state GOP is accepting checks, is the price of ambition:

-- $5,220 to run for the U.S. Senate or U.S. House;

-- $3,634.71 to run for the state Public Service Commission;

-- $400 to bid for a state House or Senate seat;

-- $3,674.20 to become a district attorney;

-- And $1.50 to become a presidential elector.

***

Some of those qualifying at the state Capitol on Monday timed highest-profile endorsements with their formal bids for office.

Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux rolled out the support of U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, minutes after she qualified with her young son at her side.

This morning, U.S. Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson announced the endorsement of Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore, one of the most powerful figures at City Hall, one day after signing her check.

U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff, one of two Democratic rivals to Tomlinson, is expected to file his paperwork later this week. But on Monday, he won the backing of Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, who credited the former congressional candidate with launching a “new era” in politics.

Read more on the first day of qualifying here. And keep up with all the action here.

***

The Libertarian field for some of Georgia's top state offices is set.

The party announced that Shane Hazel will challenge U.S. Sen. David Perdue, while Brian Slowinski will compete in the “jungle” special election against incumbent Kelly Loeffler.

Elizabeth Melton and Nathan Wilson are competing for two Public Service Commission seats, and Martin Cowen is running in Georgia’s 13th Congressional District.

Libertarian candidates typically get a few percentage points, and could increase the likelihood of runoffs in several general election contests.

***

Chris Matthews, the 74-year-old host of MSNBC's "Hardball," abruptly resigned last night, after taking flak for comments made on- and off-air.

“The younger generations out there are ready to take the reins. You see them in politics, in the media, in fighting for the causes,” he said. “A lot of them have to do with how we talk to each other. Compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, included me, might have once incorrectly thought were okay, were never okay. Not then and certainly not today, and for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry.”

Matthews left the set immediately, mid-way through the program. From Mediaite:

Critics called on the MSNBC host to resign or be fired after he compared Bernie Sanders' recent victory in the Nevada caucuses to the Nazi defeat of the French during World War II. The comment prompted private complaints to MSNBC from senior Sanders staffers and a rare on-air apology from Matthews himself.

That apology did little to stanch the criticism, as calls for his firing were renewed after a combative interview with Elizabeth Warren was decried as sexist. The interview prompted journalist Laura Bassett, a frequent MSNBC guest to allege in an op-ed that Matthews made sexist and belittling comments to her off the air.

***

We're not quite sure why yet, but freshman state Rep. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, has announced he won't seek another term.

In a statement, the Trenton Republican said he’s “concluded my time, resources and treasure are not best suited” for the Georgia House.

One possible reason: Former state Rep. John Deffenbaugh, whom Moore narrowly defeated in 2018, recently announced he would run again for the seat he held for three terms.

House Speaker David Ralston probably won’t shed any tears about Moore’s departure. He was one of a small group of House Republicans who called for Ralston to step down in the wake of an AJC investigation about his use of legislative leave privileges.

***

After all that talk about the impact, or lack thereof, of Georgia's film tax credit, members of the General Assembly are poised to expand it.

House Bill 1037 would strengthen oversight by requiring audits when a production takes advantage of the credits, plus additional changes intended to ensure the state benefits from the program's usage, the AJC's David Wickert and James Salzer report. 

But it also would allow major sporting events -- the 2026 World Cup -- and music soundtracks to take advantage of the tax credits. The Georgia Senate has a separate proposal that also would expand the program to the music industry.

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