ATLANTA — A pair of new high-profile endorsements are adding fuel to an already contentious special election for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia.
Former Gov. Nathan Deal endorsed Republican Rep. Doug Collins on Monday, backing his bid to unseat Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Republican. That puts Deal on opposing sides from current Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler to the seat and has become one of her best assets in the campaign.
“I know that the Governor had to make a tough choice, but I’ve made my choice too, and that’s Doug Collins,” Deal said, according to Collins’ campaign. “A Senate seat representing the state of Georgia cannot be bought,” he added, taking a shot at the tens of millions of dollars of personal wealth that Loeffler has used to fund her campaign.
The endorsement was foreshadowed earlier this month when Deal attended a rally for Collins, but he had not formally made an endorsement until this week. Both politicians are from Gainesville, located about 50 miles (80 kilometres) northeast of Atlanta.
Collins and Loeffler, both staunch supporters of President Donald Trump, are the top Republican candidates in a jam-packed field running for Loeffler’s seat. If no candidate receives more than 50% of votes on Nov. 3, a strong possibility with over 20 entrants in the mix, the top two will move forward to a Jan. 5 runoff.
Trump himself has not made an endorsement in the race. “Don’t anybody get out,” he said at an event in Cobb County on Friday, implying that having two Republicans duking it out in the Senate race would help his own reelection prospects.
On the other side of the aisle, former President Jimmy Carter, along with former first lady Rosalynn Carter, on Tuesday endorsed Democrat Raphael Warnock. Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, leads among Democrats. He had been struggling to crack into the top two in public polling, where he'd be in position for a runoff spot, though recent polling shows him surging.
That’s led to a full-court press from some Democrats to consolidate support behind Warnock with the hopes of pushing other Democrats, including Matt Lieberman, out of the race. Lieberman, an educator and son of former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, has so far refused to budge.
“During these difficult times, our nation must continue to march towards progress while holding fast to our American values of equality, justice and economic opportunity for all,” Carter said in a statement. “Reverend Warnock knows the struggles Georgians are facing in this unique crisis — families losing health care, shuttered rural hospitals and record unemployment — all in the middle of a pandemic.”
Carter is the second former president to back Warnock’s campaign, joining Barack Obama, who announced his endorsement on Friday.
Both of Georgia’s Republican-held U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs on Nov. 3. In the other race, Republican Sen. David Perdue is seeking a second term and faces Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Ben Nadler, The Associated Press