After Ralston endorsement, dozens of lawmakers back Collins

Several flipped support from Loeffler

House Speaker David Ralston’s endorsement of Senate candidate Doug Collins cleared the way for a group of other state legislators to back his campaign – including a few who initially supported his rival.

The four-term congressman on Tuesday rolled out a slate of 45 supporters from the General Assembly in a bid to undercut U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s claim that she’s the favorite of Georgia conservatives. The list includes 40 House members, five state senators and three incoming House lawmakers.

The slate includes at least two House lawmakers who earlier endorsed Loeffler: State Reps. Karen Mathiak and Rick Williams. State Rep. Ron Stephens, another early Loeffler backer, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he’s now neutral in the race but declined further comment.

While it’s unclear why those lawmakers flipped their positions, one lawmaker linked his decision to the Loeffler campaign’s heated reaction to Ralston’s endorsement.

Her spokesman, Stephen Lawson, had called Ralston a “career politician and criminal defense lawyer who abused his power.” It was a reference to an AJC investigation into delays of court cases Ralston handled as a private attorney.

“While I support Doug on his merits, I’ve typically remained neutral when it comes to intraparty races or endorsements,” said state Rep. Jason Ridley, R-Chatsworth. “However, the Loeffler campaign’s attempt to discredit Speaker Ralston – and by extension all House Republicans – is embarrassing.”

He added: “I’m ashamed that Loeffler’s campaign was scared enough by his endorsement to stoop to these tactics.”

January 29, 2020 Atlanta - Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston (left) and Governor Brian Kemp speak during the 7th Annual Legislative Lunch at Georgia Freight Depot in Atlanta on Wednesday, January 29, 2020. (Hyosub Shin /


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The Republican-on-Republican feud between Collins and Loeffler has shaped the November special election. They’re among 21 candidates scrapping in the free-for-all contest, which seems certain to end in a January runoff between two top finishers. Some recent polls show Loeffler with a narrow edge.

As both Republicans court a core conservative base, endorsements have served as an important measure of the race – particularly for Collins, who can’t keep pace with Loeffler’s ad blitz. A former financial executive, Loeffler has promised to spend at least $20 million on the race.

Already, the contest has divided the Georgia GOP into dueling factions, with Gov. Brian Kemp and other Loeffler supporters on one side, and allies of Collins on another.

That divide sharpened last week with Ralston’s endorsement. Though it came as little surprise – the speaker and Collins are longtime friends – the public display of support cleared the way for some rank-and-file Republicans to buck Kemp by breaking with his hand-picked selection for the seat.

Loeffler countered with her own new endorsements.

Early Tuesday, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced his support for her bid. A few hours later, the campaign released a list of 16 state legislators – including Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan – to join the dozen or so who had already backed her.

Collins' campaign, meanwhile, said the damage had already been done.

“We would like to thank Stephen Lawson and Kelly’s team for the assist,” said Collins spokesman Dan McLagan. “Their being vile and unpleasant to everyone they can’t buy off is a big help to us.”