Columbus state Rep. Richard Smith throws support behind Doug Collins in Senate battle

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The split among Columbus-area Republicans over the U.S. Senate seat held by Kelly Loeffler became more pronounced in recent days.

Loeffler is in a crowded race with more than 20 candidates — Republicans and Democrats, alike. 

A prominent local Republican lawmaker threw his support behind Congressman Doug Collins this month.

Rep. Richard Smith had been on the sideline until recently. Smith — the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee and a lieutenant to Speaker of the House David Ralston — is backing the challenger Collins.

Usually Republicans are on the same page when a Senate race is decided in November, but not this year.

And the split goes all the way to the state’s highest offices. Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Loeffler earlier this year to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Johnny Isakson.

Congressman Doug Collins wanted the job — and he’s being backed by Ralston.

“In my case, it was relatively simple,” Smith said “I have known Doug Collins since 2006. I think that’s when he got elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. Over the next four or five years I had the chance to work with him before he ran for Congress. He’s a very bright young man.”

Congressman Drew Ferguson, is also on team Collins. But two local General Assembly members — Senator Randy Robertson and Representative Vance Smith — are backing Loeffler.

Though Vance Smith is an outlier, most of the Republican House members are with Collins and most Republican senators are behind Loeffler.

“She’s doing a great job and she’s showed she’s willing to push  back against forces,” Robertson said. “And she’s a strong female leader. And I am excited to support her for those reasons.”

Richard Smith is philosophical when talking about the GOP divide.

Richard Smith/Georgia House 

“That’s OK. This is democracy, you can vote for who you want to.” 

This senate race is almost certainly headed for a runoff. Democrat Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, appears to be the leading Democrat. Phil ….

The General Election is November 3rd. Advance voting starts Oct. 12th. If there is a runoff, it will be January 5th.

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