Ralston slams Loeffler in north Georgia; Warnock aims for outright win

David Ralston wants a hate crimes bill ‘with no delay and no amendments’
David Ralston wants a hate crimes bill ‘with no delay and no amendments’

ON THE GEORGIA TRAIL

At a campaign stop Wednesday in deep-red Ellijay, House Speaker David Ralston was in the middle of listing the reasons he supported U.S. Rep. Doug Collins' challenge to U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler when he shifted his focus to the incumbent.

“I know Doug,” said Ralston. “I really don’t know his opponent. I know she’s got a lot of money. I know she married well. I know they’ve got three or four jets. She was supposed to be getting the votes of suburban moms, but the ones I talk to say, ‘She ain’t like me. We’re still working on our first jet at our house.’”

Loeffler and Collins have been locked in a nasty Republican-on-Republican feud for most of the year, fighting for a spot in an expected January runoff. She’s pumped $20 million into her campaign while her husband Jeff Sprecher, whose company owns the New York Stock Exchange, has spent at least $5.5 million on her re-election bid.

And lately, Loeffler has accused Collins and his allies of making a series of gender-based attacks on her stint in the U.S. Senate, which began in January after Gov. Brian Kemp appointed her to the seat that retired Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson gave up.

“You’ve attacked my hair, my makeup, how I talk, my clothes, where I’m from,” said Loeffler, a former financial executive, at Monday’s Atlanta Press Club debate. “You’ve lied about me. You lie about my family. And let me tell you, here’s the truth: I’m here because I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”

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Pressed for examples, Loeffler’s campaign pointed to critiques labeling her a “pretend” farmer, asserting she should pursue a job she’s “more suited for” and a Facebook page by Collins’ backers casting her as a “Buckhead Barbie.”

Ralston, a longtime ally of Collins, endorsed the four-term congressman in September and recently has hit the campaign trail to back his bid.

He told the crowd Wednesday that “she’s going nowhere except dropping like a rock” and accused Loeffler of reading from “cue cards” at the debate, which the senator’s campaign has denied.

Of his decision to defy Kemp, Ralston said he tells voters that he learned during his childhood in Gilmer County to “stand by your friends” no matter what may come.

“Then they attacked me and after they attacked me, about 40 members of the Georgia House endorsed him," he said of Loeffler and her top allies, and the resulting wave of support for Collins. "Keep those attacks coming. I love it.”

201021-Atlanta- Rev. Raphael Warnock talks with a member of his campaign staff before voting Wednesday morning, October 21, 2020 at State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
201021-Atlanta- Rev. Raphael Warnock talks with a member of his campaign staff before voting Wednesday morning, October 21, 2020 at State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

‘If necessary’

The polls suggest otherwise, but Democrat Raphael Warnock isn’t ruling out an outright win in November’s chaotic special election.

As he cast his ballot for himself on Wednesday, the pastor said he’s angling to avoid a January runoff against either U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler or U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.

“There’s no question we’re seeing record voter turnout in the state,” he said. “I have not given up on the idea that I can finish this job on November 3. We’re going to lay it all out on the field, work very hard and see what happens. But if necessary, we’ll continue to fight for two more months.”

The first-time candidate is hovering the mid-30s in most recent polls, enough for a solid lead over Loeffler and Collins but also short of the majority-vote mark he’d need to escape overtime.

No Democrat has won a statewide race in Georgia in a dozen years, but it’s even more difficult this election considering Warnock is sharing the ballot with 19 other candidates – including fellow Democrats Matt Lieberman and Ed Tarver.

Those two Democrats have resisted pleas to abandon their campaigns, but their names will remain on the ballot even if they quit. Even if they combine for just a few percentage points, it cuts into the overall margin for Democrats who haven’t won a statewide race in a dozen years.

Warnock, meanwhile, is sounding an optimistic note.

“I’m deeply grateful for the ways in which our movement is gaining strength.”

FILE -- Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) wait to greet President Donald Trump at the airport in Atlanta on Sept. 25, 2020. Collins is running in a special election against Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat; but the Democrat in that race, Raphael Warnock, is now leading in a poll. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)
FILE -- Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) wait to greet President Donald Trump at the airport in Atlanta on Sept. 25, 2020. Collins is running in a special election against Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat; but the Democrat in that race, Raphael Warnock, is now leading in a poll. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

Credit: Wire

Credit: Wire

China, China, China

Eager to talk about anything but the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans competing in Georgia’s twin U.S. Senate races have turned to a topic that rarely gets much attention in the state during election season: China.

Suddenly, China is getting top billing by GOP candidates echoing President Donald Trump’s attempts to blame the Asian superpower for a pandemic that’s killed 220,000 Americans and triggered the nation’s worst economic slowdown in decades.

Read more here.

Harris heads South

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will visit Atlanta on Friday to rally Georgians to her campaign, as polls show a neck-and-neck race between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden in a state Republicans have long dominated.

The details of Harris' visit were not released, though the campaign said the California senator is expected to make multiple stops in Atlanta to urge Georgians to vote early during the final stretch of the presidential race.

Read more here.

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