Former Rep. Paul Broun was asked Wednesday about a tip we received that he was considering a challenge to two-term Rep. Doug Collins. And he did nothing to dispel rumors that he was gunning for the ultra-conservative north Georgia seat.
“Stay tuned,” was all he would tell us.
The Athens Republican and tea party favorite left Congress in late 2014 after losing the crowded Republican primary race for Saxby Chambliss’ open Senate seat. He’s since resumed his medical practice and also become chairman of a tea party group focused on electing lawmakers that adhere to the movement’s principles. (The organization, Tea Party Forward, recently endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for president.)
If Broun intends to run, he doesn't have long to make up his mind. Qualifying begins Monday and ends five days later.
A conservative firebrand who was frequently a thorn in the side of Republican leaders, Broun’s last months in office were often overshadowed by an ethics investigation into his congressional office’s alleged misuse of $43,000 of taxpayer money for campaign work.
Broun’s old tenth congressional seat, which represents Athens, Milledgeville and Winder, is now held by Jody Hice, R-Monroe.
Collins’ ninth district, which borders Broun’s old constituency to the north, is among the reddest east of the Mississippi. It went for Collins by more than 60 points in 2014 above his Democratic opponent, but the Iraq veteran and Baptist pastor has walked a political tightrope, maintaining a conservative voting record while also staying in the good graces of party leaders.
Broun on Wednesday said he’s unhappy with the way Congress is being run.
“We’ve been betrayed by the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate with John Boehner and now Paul Ryan, as well as Mitch McConnell in the Senate,” Broun said.
He singled out the passage of a $1.1 trillion government spending package in December that did not strip federal funding for the 2010 health care law and Planned Parenthood or make any changes to the country’s refugee programs. Most of the Georgia delegation supported it after they were able to leverage their votes and convince leaders to pull a provision they said could have impacted the state’s water wars with Alabama and Florida.