ATLANTA — Doug Collins, a former U.S. congressman and ardent defender of former President Donald J. Trump, announced on Monday that he would not seek any statewide office in 2022, at once narrowing the field of Republican candidates for Senate in Georgia and removing a potential intraparty challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp.
Mr. Collins’s decision is a setback for Mr. Trump’s hopes of fielding a strong, experienced Republican candidate for Senate or governor next year. Mr. Collins was widely seen as more likely to run for Senate; his announcement now deprives the Trump-supporting wing of the Georgia Republican Party of an experienced challenger to Senator Raphael Warnock, a freshman Democrat who won a special election in January and will be up for re-election to a full term next year.
Herschel Walker, the former N.F.L. and University of Georgia football star, has been rumored to be considering a run, and Mr. Trump has urged him to jump into the race. Kelvin King, a contractor and Trump supporter, announced his candidacy earlier this month, and Latham Saddler, a former Navy SEAL and former White House fellow in the Trump administration, has filed paperwork stating his intention to run.
Other ambitious Georgia Republicans seeking higher office may also end up trying their luck in the primary. Mr. Warnock is a political newcomer, and Republicans are hoping that his election this winter, as well as that of Senator Jon Ossoff, a fellow Democrat, were anomalies explained in part by the false claims of election fraud pushed by Mr. Trump and his allies, which may have depressed turnout in those Senate races.
Moreover, national Republicans are likely to spend big to defeat Mr. Warnock in the general election in an effort to wrest control of the Senate away from the Democrats. It is expected to be one of the most hotly contested and closely watched elections in the country next year.
Mr. Collins was also seen as a potential primary challenger to Mr. Kemp, the Republican incumbent who drew the ire of Mr. Trump for refusing to acquiesce to the former president’s demands to try to subvert the election results.
Mr. Trump has vowed to campaign against Mr. Kemp and may get behind other pro-Trump statewide candidates in advance of the November 2022 election. Vernon Jones, a former Democrat turned Trump ally, announced his candidacy for governor earlier this month.
Mr. Trump had hinted at the idea of backing Mr. Collins for statewide office, although he mentioned him as a potential candidate for governor, rather than senator, at a rally in Georgia in December.
As Mr. Trump continues to seek retribution against Republicans in Georgia, he also endorsed another loyal ally, Representative Jody Hice, in March for a bid to unseat the current secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, in the state’s Republican primary. Mr. Raffensperger also enraged Mr. Trump by declining to help him overturn the presidential election results in the state.
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