Doug Collins weighs 2022 challenge to Brian Kemp or Raphael Warnock

In a partisan fight over the release of the Mueller report, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, center, as the ranking GOP member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, holds a powerful position on the Republican side of the dispute. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
In a partisan fight over the release of the Mueller report, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, center, as the ranking GOP member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, holds a powerful position on the Republican side of the dispute. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

David Perdue isn’t the only 2020 GOP casualty considering a comeback.

Former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins said he is looking at a challenge to either Gov. Brian Kemp or U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, who are both up for reelection in 2022.

Collins, who represented the 9th Congressional District for eight years, finished third in the 2020 special election to succeed former Sen. Johnny Isakson. Warnock and former Sen. Kelly Loeffler advanced to the January runoff, which Warnock won.

“We’ve got a good background. People in the state know us,” Collins said in an interview. “Am I open to considering a run for the Senate or governor? Yes.”

As for a timeline, Collins said he’s not in a hurry to decide, but, “We’ll be making that decision over the next little bit.”

While he considers his next step in politics, Collins has already decided what’s in his immediate future. He’s joined Oliver & Weidner, a law firm in Habersham County, where he’ll handle civil and criminal litigation.

And like many GOP personalities before him, Collins will also host a daily radio show. He’ll take over the 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm timeslot on the John Fredericks Talk Radio Network at the beginning of March.

Only Collins knows if he’ll get back into politics. But unlike other longtime politicians, he never seemed to tire of the demands of the campaign trail.

Two weeks after conceding his Senate race to Loeffler, he was back out on the trail stumping for her, most notably calling Warnock’s position as a pro-choice pastor “a lie from the pit of Hell.”

And even as votes were still being counted in the race that Donald Trump eventually lost to President Joe Biden, Collins was in a Buckhead parking lot with Donald Trump, Jr. and state GOP chair David Shafer at what would become one of the earliest “Stop the Steal” rallies in the country, talking about the burst water pipe at State Farm Arena that Republicans claimed cast suspicion over the votes counted there.

No court challenges or investigations ever found the widespread fraud Republicans alleged in the state.

Even in defeat, the former president has vowed to return to Georgia in 2022 to help primary challengers run against Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom he has blamed for his loss in the state.

Collins became a favorite of Trump’s as he led the GOP opposition to Trump’s first impeachment in the House of Representatives.

At a Georgia rally for Loeffler and Perdue before their runoff elections, Trump called out to Collins specifically. “Doug, you want to run for governor in two years?” Trump said to the delight of the crowd. “He’d be a good-looking governor.”

Collins said the former president is still “very well liked” in the state.

“Average voters felt a connection to him and in Georgia that was very real,” Collins said. “Especially in a Republican primary, his role is very important.”

Asked why Republicans lost statewide races in Georgia in 2020, Collins pegged the party’s losses on their failure to articulate their principles and stay connected to grassroots voters.

“We have got to get a Republican message out there that the people can relate to, that they understand why conservatism matters,” he said.

Tactically, he said Warnock also got “a free pass from the National Senatorial Committee and others” whom Collins said should have been more focused on attacking Warnock instead of him.

“That was something that I think cost us in the end because he was able to, you know, run puppy ads instead of having to answer for his very liberal views.”

Collins is still serving once a month as a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, based at Robins Air Force Base, and he said he’ll continue to work on criminal justice reform and intellectual property issues in some capacity.

“I have a strong passion that the conservative movement has to regain its base of having the best ideas,” he said, adding later, “The question is, where can I do the most good?”

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