Now that reports indicate U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville will run for the U.S. Senate this fall, the question turns to who replaces him in Georgia's Ninth District in Congress.
Two of the names most frequently mentioned as possible candidates – state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, and WDUN host Martha Zoller – indicated Tuesday they won’t be throwing their hats into the race.
“I am certainly going to consider running for this position, but I, at this time, am leaning toward not running,” Zoller, host of WDUN’s weekday political talk show “Morning Talk,” said.
Miller was more adamant that he wouldn’t be a candidate.
“I am not planning on being a candidate for the congressional race,” Miller said. “I will be serving the 49th senate district and continuing my role as president pro tem of the state senate. I feel very gratified doing that and I feel that’s where I should be.”
Speculation about who might replace Collins in Congress intensified on Monday when published reports from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Politico said the four-term congressman from Gainesville will enter the race against sitting Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat late last year by Gov. Brian Kemp.
Efforts to reach Collins for comment on those reports have been unsuccessful.
If Collins does run, it could complicate the election for Republicans, who are trying to hold onto the seat vacated last year by Sen. Johnny Isakson. Under current state law, the special election in November will feature all candidates for all parties. A runoff, if needed, would be in January. Some political observers believe a split GOP vote could make it easier for a Democrat to take the seat.
But an effort is underway in the General Assembly to change that. The House Governmental Affairs Committee approved a measure Tuesday that would force a partisan primary election in May. The winners from the Democratic and Republican primaries would then face each other in November.
The full House will take up the measure soon. But Kemp has vowed to veto it.
Collins on Tuesday was the chaplain of the day in the Georgia House. He made no mentions of a possible Senate bid. But an announcement is likely soon. Qualifying for candidates who would like to succeed Collins in the 2020 election is March 2-6.
Besides Miller and Zoller, other candidates who are being mentioned as possible candidates for the U.S. House are Chris Riley, former chief of staff for Gov. Nathan Deal; state Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega; state Sen. John Wilkinson of Toccoa, whose current district includes a portion of Hall County; and former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, who now lives in Towns County.
The Ninth District includes most of Northeast Georgia and one of the most conservative districts in the country. Collins won re-election in 2016 with nearly 80 percent of the vote against a Democratic challenger.