With less than 50 days before the 2020 election, U.S. Senate candidate Doug Collins spoke to the University of Georgia’s College Republicans on a Zoom call Wednesday. Collins spent the majority of the time criticizing incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler while touting his political accomplishments and answering off-the-cuff questions from audience members.
The fervent Trump administration supporter attacked Loeffler —who is up five points over Collins in the polls, according to FiveThirtyEight — for not being a “true” conservative, accusing her of supporting democratic candidates who advocate for abortion rights groups and anti-gun legislation.
“When you’re trying to get Republican votes, I guess people don’t like it when you give money to Maxine Waters and you’re supposed to be a conservative Republican,” Collins said. “But that’s what you expect when you’re trying to hide something, and that’s what she is trying to hide, her record.”
The majority of Loeffler’s political donations either directly or through a political action committee have gone to Republican campaigns. Loeffler has donated some money to Democratic candidates who support abortion rights and gun control legislation.
Collins also spent time addressing Loeffler’s campaign attacks against him, which similarly claim he is not a “real” conservative.
Collins, who Loeffler accused of being “good friends” and frequently voting alongside former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, attributed their shared votes to Abrams voting for conservative legislation. Collins then criticized Loeffler for supporting Abrams, citing their appearance together at an Atlanta Dream playoff game.
“No matter what you may think of me, I’m a conservative who has been tested and proven in congress and in the Georgia House long before Senator Loeffler decided she wanted to be in public office,” Collins said.
Collins served as a chaplain in the Air Force Reserve Command and was deployed to Iraq in 2008, and was later elected to Georgia’s 9th Congressional District in 2013.
Collins told the audience he is proud to have introduced the First Step Act — a bipartisan criminal justice bill which reformed federal prison and sentencing laws to reduce recidivism among other changes — which Trump signed into law in November 2018. During his time in Washington, Collins also introduced legislation to sanction the Chinese government over its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the House Judiciary Committee’s ranking member in 2019, Collins criticized President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings, calling it a sham.
Late last year, prompted by former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s resignation due to health concerns, Trump pressured Gov. Brian Kemp to appoint Collins to fill the vacancy. Kemp later appointed Loeffler instead.
“The governor chose to go in a different direction. I respect that,” Collins said. “The governor gets one vote, but the rest of Georgia gets a vote as well, and I believe that’s what you’re going to see coming forward here in November.”
The November election for the seat, which will partially determine if Republicans keep the Senate majority, is not just between Collins and Loeffler. As a jungle primary, Georgians can vote for one of the 21 candidates, most of whom identify as either Republican or Democrat.
After the November ballots are counted, the two candidates with the most votes will enter into a run-off election in January to determine a winner.
Although the College Republicans had a list of pre-submitted questions, Collins announced he would answer audience questions off-the-cuff in an attempt to differentiate himself from Loeffler.
“I’m going to answer your questions because I’m not afraid of you,” Collins said. “Georgia needs a senator who can talk to voters. Georgia needs a senator who can actually answer questions, whether we agree or disagree.”
Collins answered audience questions on a wide array of topics, where he described the widely-criticized Netflix movie “Cuties” as child pornography, expressed his support of UGA conducting in-person classes with safety precautions and elaborated on his anti-abortion views.
“Life is important to me from conception to natural death, and it’s not just at the beginning and the end. We’ve got to take the time to actually look in the middle as well,” Collins said. “Conservatives are the ones who believe in people. We’re the ones that look into people’s eyes and see that God has created something very special, and we are the ones who actually believe in that and encourage that.”
It’s for that reason — trying to make life better for the nation’s youth — Collins said he is running.
“For me, it’s always been pretty simple,” Collins said. “What we’re doing right now affects your life in many different ways. It’s about a future worth having.”