In a season in which political outsiders have the upper hand, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville already has one Republican primary challenger and may soon have another in former congressman Paul Broun. But Collins says he’s not worried.
“The ninth district is my home. I’ve been there for 49 years and come August I’ll have been there 50. I don’t need to be introduced to the ninth district of Georgia,” Collins said in an interview.
Collins on Monday landed a primary opponent in former elementary school principal Roger Fitzpatrick, whom he ran against in 2012.
Word has it that Collins’ seat is also being eyed by Broun, whose tenth congressional district used to overlap with portions the current ninth before redistricting in 2012. When he was in Congress, Broun listed Watkinsville, located in the tenth congressional district, as his residence.
Collins would not comment on Broun, who has not yet formally announced whether he will run. But the Iraq veteran did have this to say about the potential of running against someone who hasn’t been living in the district:
“I think it’s just a reminder that as you look ahead, ambitions sometimes blind you to realities. We’ve always represented the ninth district. We are the ninth and we’re going continue to represent the ninth in a positive way while I’m in Washington.”
For his part, Broun on Tuesday said he put his Watkinsville home on the market and is renting a place in Clarksville. He said he’s looking to buy a home in Habersham County.
“I assure you and the voters of the ninth congressional district my wife and I will be voting in the ninth congressional district,” he said.
Broun added that he’s not new to the ninth district, having represented about half of its counties when he was in Congress before redistricting in 2012.
“I’ve traveled all over and have for almost all my life, since I was a teenager, to go to the mountains and go trout fishing. So the whole of the ninth congressional district is extremely familiar to me,” he said. “That’s my backyard.”
While still not confirming his run for the ninth district seat, Broun criticized Collins for alluding to his residency.
“It’s unfortunate. I would expect more of a Baptist pastor than the kind of dirty campaign that they’ve already begun,” said Broun, adding that he would not “get down in the mud with anybody.”
The ninth congressional district is one of the reddest east of the Mississippi. It went for Collins by more than 60 points in 2014 above his Democratic opponent.
Collins, meanwhile, is focusing on his voting record in Congress and deep ties to northeast Georgia. Close to Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston, he also has friends in high places.
Collins distanced himself from Washington in an interview, saying he identifies with the anti-establishment political vibe that’s dominated the Republican presidential race.
“It’s a frustration that I have felt. I’ve only been in Congress now for a term and a half and we’re fighting those battles,” he said.