Political Insider

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Doug Collins gets a possible primary challenge over his Boehner vote


WASHINGTON -- We have preliminary evidence that there is some substance behind the conservative backlash against Georgia Republicans for unanimously backing Speaker John Boehner.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins might be getting a primary.

Al Gainey, a former Hall County Commissioner and conservative radio host, is “prayerfully considering” a run against the second-term Gainesville congressman. The Boehner vote was Gainey’s top motivation, he said in a phone interview Monday:

“I just cannot believe that we have had to put up with more of the same from everybody that goes to Washington from Georgia, from the senators in the past to the current congressmen for the most part. Paul Broun is about the only one from Georgia who held his ground up there. He was somewhat ostracized, in my opinion, but at least he held true.”

Gainey used to host a radio show each day on WDUN-AM 550 in Gainesville, though he has scaled back his microphone duties to one day a week to concentrate on his business, a local franchise of Spherion Staffing Services. He served as Hall County commission chairman from 1997-2001.

Gainey, who could not immediately think of any quibbles with Collins' voting record beyond the Boehner vote, is aware of the long odds if he takes the plunge:

“Incumbents get re-elected -- period. But somebody has to put them on guard to at least understand that those days are going to fast come to a close. This country’s in such dire need of good leadership. We’re not seeing true leadership occur in any facet that I can see, so I am just willing to try to hold people accountable. The radio is somewhat effective, but they don’t listen to the radio from the standpoint of taking it to heart. They are not listening to their constituents. They are doing their own thing. It’s a power play and it’s a power game up there in Washington.”

Collins broke off to oppose House GOP leadership from the right on several votes in his first term in Congress, but he also drew conservative flak for backing bills such as the “CRomnibus” spending measure to fund most of the government through September. Conservative pressure group Heritage Action for America gave him an 81 percent on its scorecard, third highest in the Georgia delegation.

In an interview Monday, Collins said even though he often has his own “frustrations” with Boehner and votes accordingly, no one ran a credible challenge against the speaker. As for the rumblings against him, Collins said:

“I think the great thing about serving my district, which I’ve loved to serve … is it’s a very passionate district, a very conservative district. …

“We’ve never run from anything. I’ve never run from a vote, and I’ll never run from explaining my votes. We’ll continue to serve the people of the Ninth District as best we can. I think [the possible challenge is] reflective of the people who want to get involved in the Ninth District.”

Collins defeated another former WDUN radio host, Martha Zoller, in a heated primary runoff to first win the seat in 2012. The Ninth District is the third most Republican district in the country. He won both his primary and general elections last year with 80 percent of the vote. He had $323,000 in his campaign coffers as of late November.


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