Collins won’t run for Senate or Georgia governor in 2022

FILE – Republican candidate for Senate Rep. Doug Collins attends an election night watch party in Buford, Ga., in this Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, file photo. Collins announced Monday, April 26, 2021, that he will not run for governor or U.S. Senate in Georgia in 2022. (AP Photo/Brett Davis, File)

ATLANTA — Former Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a favorite of former President Donald Trump, says he doesn’t plan to run for governor or U.S. Senate in Georgia in 2022.

Collins’ announcement Monday makes it less likely there will be a top-drawer Republican primary challenger to Gov. Brian Kemp. In the separate U.S. Senate race, it could open the way for other Republicans who have been considering a run for the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, who will also be up for reelection in 2022.

Collins ran unsuccessfully for the seat Warnock ultimately won last year. He was Trump’s choice to succeed U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired. But Kemp instead appointed business executive Kelly Loeffler.

Collins finished third in an all-party special election in November, with Loeffler and Warnock advancing to a January runoff that Warnock won. His victory, along with Democrat Jon Ossoff’s runoff victory over incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, tipped control of the Senate to Democrats.

Collins didn’t rule out a future run, saying he would continue “shaping our conservative message to help Republicans win back the House and the Senate and help more strong conservative candidates get elected here in Georgia.”

“For those who may wonder, this is goodbye for now, but probably not forever,” Collins wrote.

Collins served four terms in Congress representing northeast Georgia’s 9th District, one of the nation’s most conservative congressional districts. He’s a lawyer, Baptist minister and Air Force reservist. Collins joined a Habersham County law firm and started a radio talk show after he left the House, where he was succeeded by gun dealer Andrew Clyde. The 54-year-old Collins was earlier a Georgia state representative.

As the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Collins gained national notice as a vociferous Trump defender during the former president’s first impeachment, claiming it was a “sham” and part of an attempted coup to remove Trump.

“I fought each and every day to uphold our constitutional rights and the freedoms we cherish,” Collins said of his service on Judiciary.

Former Democrat Vernon Jones and Appling County teacher Kandiss Taylor have announced Republican primary bids against Kemp. But other Republicans have been shying away from challenging Kemp. The incumbent governor’s forceful advocacy on behalf of the sweeping election bill he signed into law has helped improve his standing with Republicans who felt he didn’t do enough to challenge President Joe Biden’s win of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes. Some Republicans still remain unhappy with Kemp, though, as shown by some county Republican conventions that passed resolutions criticizing him last month.

Collins would have been an instant favorite among Republicans jockeying to challenge Warnock, who has to defend his seat in 2022 because there were only two years remaining on Isakson’s term. Warnock is gearing up for a heavy-duty race, having raised $5.7 million in campaign funds between Jan. 6 and March 31.

Navy veteran Latham Saddler and Marietta contractor Kelvin King have announced Republican Senate bids, with U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter of Pooler acknowledging he’s considering it. Trump has in recent weeks been urging former University of Georgia football great Herschel Walker to run for Senate, an early indicator that Collins might not run. State Sen. Burt Jones, a Republican from Jackson, has also been rumored as a possible candidate for various offices including governor and in the Senate.