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Loeffler’s campaign ups attacks on Collins’ legal record despite criticism

ajc.com

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is intensifying her attack on Republican rival Doug Collins’ record as a criminal defense attorney despite criticism from his campaign and allies who say he’s being unfairly targeted for fulfilling his constitutional duty.

Loeffler’s campaign trumpeted a statement Monday from roughly a dozen sheriffs that accused Collins of making a “career out of putting the interests of criminals before the safety of Georgia’s families” because his former law firm represented court-assigned indigent defense cases.

The statement from the sheriffs, a group that included Butch Conway of Gwinnett and Neal Jump of Glynn, comes days after Loeffler launched a TV attack ad that frame Collins as an attorney who marketed himself to unsavory clients and “helped violent criminals and even gang members get out of jail.”

Collins’ campaign has said three of the four defendants featured in the ad were represented by the congressman’s then-law partner, and all involved defendants assigned by a judge because they were unable to afford legal counsel.

“Accusation equals conviction if your bank balance does not have enough zeros in it,” said Collins spokesman Dan McLagan, echoing a campaign argument that casts Loeffler as an out-of-touch elitist.

And Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodward wrote in a lengthy op-ed that the ad’s “most inflammatory insinuation” was that Collins violated his conservative beliefs by representing people accused of crimes.

“This is a very wrong conclusion,” she wrote, adding: “Defense attorneys stand in the gap between accusation and conviction – requiring the government to do its job and do it by the law.”

Both Republicans, bitter rivals in a November special election, have aggressively embraced a pro-law enforcement message and echoed President Donald Trump’s “law and order” message as they pursue conservative votes.

Loeffler touts the endorsement of more than a dozen sheriffs and district attorneys; Collins has netted support of 28 sheriffs and the state’s former top public safety official.

The Nov. 3 special election features Loeffler and 20 other challengers with no party primary to filter out nominees. The Rev. Raphael Warnock is trying to consolidate Democratic support in the free-for-all race, though he faces a challenge from Matt Lieberman, the son of the former U.S. senator.

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