Doug Collins is not running for Senate or Georgia governor in 2022

Former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins said he will not be running either for the U.S. Senate or the governorship in 2022. (Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

Former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins said he will not be running either for the U.S. Senate or the governorship in 2022. (Alyssa Pointer /

Former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins ruled out a run for the U.S. Senate or other public office in 2022, ending speculation that the staunch Donald Trump ally could challenge newly elected Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock after a failed special election bid last year.

The Gainesville Republican had been seriously considering launching another campaign for the Senate after his third-place finish in 2020′s special election, and he would have been the biggest name in the still-evolving Republican field against Warnock, a pastor whose victory in January made him the first Black U.S. senator in Georgia history.

But Collins had also sent signals that he would remain in the private sector with the start of a popular new conservative talk show and by joining a North Georgia law firm. In a statement Monday, Collins said it was “goodbye for now but probably not forever.”

“I do plan on staying involved in shaping our conservative message to help Republicans win back the House and the Senate and help more strong conservative candidates get elected here in Georgia,” he said.

“I believe that we, as conservatives, must be able to clearly communicate our values and I will help keep that fight going.”

The move is a blow to some pro-Trump Republicans who hoped Collins would use his high name recognition and staunchly conservative record to make another run for office, though every other serious Republican contender plans to highlight his or her allegiance to the former president.

It also means another well-known Republican is steering clear of one of the nation’s premier political contests, depriving the GOP of a candidate who would enter the contest with frontrunner status and could quickly energize the party’s base. Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue earlier ruled out a comeback bid, and other big-name Republicans are also not yet committed.

Longtime Collins strategist Chip Lake said the former congressman wrestled with the decision for days before making up his mind.

“If you’re going to run statewide and be successful, you have to be 110% committed to the effort,” Lake said. “And he just couldn’t get there in his head, so he made the decision to back away.”

A four-term Republican congressman who represented the conservative 9th Congressional District, Collins aggressively pitched himself for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2019 — and was spurned by Gov. Brian Kemp despite initial support from Trump.

After Kemp picked wealthy financial executive Kelly Loeffler for the seat, Collins entered the Senate race anyway, pillorying her as a squishy moderate. The two exchanged vicious attacks throughout the 2020 campaign, pulling the race to the right before Collins finished in third place in the crowded November special election.

He quickly conceded the race to Loeffler and campaigned for her in the runoffs. He also led Trump’s recount efforts in Georgia, which were fueled by the then-president’s false claims of widespread voter fraud.

Loeffler was defeated nine weeks later by Warnock, part of a Democratic sweep that flipped control of the chamber and allowed President Joe Biden to pursue a more expansive legislative agenda.

During last year's campaign in Georgia's special election to the the U.S. Senate, then-U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, left, and then-U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler fought bitterly, with him trying to cast her as a moderate. But Collins then campaigned for Loeffler in the runoff race she lost to Democrat Raphael Warnock. Collins has ruled out making another run at the seat in 2022, when Warnock will be up for reelection. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

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Credit: TNS

Collins’ decision against running in 2022 injects more uncertainty into the wide-open Republican contest to challenge Warnock, who has already raised nearly $6 million for his reelection bid and enjoys unified support from national and state Democrats.

Trump has encouraged University of Georgia football legend Herschel Walker to run, and several high-profile Republicans appear to be waiting on his decision. They include Loeffler, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter and Drew Ferguson. Two military veterans — Kelvin King and Latham Saddler — have already entered the race.

Collins also definitively ruled out a challenge to Kemp, who drew the wrath of Trump and his allies after he refused to overturn the election results. Before the runoff, Trump repeatedly urged Collins to challenge the governor in a GOP primary, pleading with him at a Valdosta rally to “run for governor in two years.”

But the first-term governor’s footing with the grassroots base has steadied in recent weeks with his forceful defense of new election restrictions, though votes by activists in roughly a dozen counties “censuring” Kemp show he still has work ahead to shore up his foundation.

So far, Kemp has avoided a credible Republican challenger ahead of an expected rematch against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Former Democrat Vernon Jones entered the race earlier this month, and several lesser-known Republicans plan to mount campaigns.

With Collins ruling out a Senate bid, Trump’s faction in Georgia has many other options down the ticket.

Beyond his forceful push for Walker, Trump has also endorsed U.S. Rep. Jody Hice’s bid to unseat Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who was vilified by fellow Republicans for defying demands to “find” enough votes to overturn the state’s results in the presidential election.

And the former president’s allies cheered the news that Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan — who has frequently rebuked Trump — is not planning to stand for another term.