Hufstetler came out swinging at the Bartow County GOP debate last week, claiming the “attack ad” is an attempt to divert attention from the fact that Doss was a Democrat until he switched parties in 2005.
“I did vote in some Democratic primaries,” Hufstetler said. “But the truth is, when there is no Republican opposition, we try to put the weakest Democrat in office.”
Doss said he wants to talk about issues, but he’s fighting back against Hufstetler’s focus on party identification. He said many older Republicans — like former governor Sonny Perdue and Gov. Nathan Deal — started out as Democrats.
“Like Zell Miller said, ‘I didn’t leave the party. The party left me,’” Doss said. “I’ve always been a conservative.”
The third Republican in the race, Hayden Collins, rolled his eyes and removed his jacket. The moderator asked if he was getting warm, but Collins shook his head.
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“No, I’m making sure I don’t get any mud on it,” he said, drawing a chuckle from the crowd.
Collins, a Tea Party member, said the Hufstetler-Doss battle is a surrogate for the ongoing war in the state Senate between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and the group led by Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, that stripped Cagle of most of his power in that chamber.
“There’s trench warfare going on in the Senate, but I’m not interested in it,” Collins said. “I’m interested in the 52nd.”
Doss, who has Cagle’s endorsement, said the Georgia Constitution calls for the lieutenant governor to preside over the Senate, and Williams’ committee usurped the authority from the voters who put Cagle in office.
“One only has to look at the last two years to see how dysfunctional the state Senate has become,” Doss said.
Hufstetler, who is endorsed by state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, said Cagle belongs to the executive branch of government, and the committee of Senate legislators are in the right.
“The Georgia Constitution says there needs to be a distinction between the executive, legislative and judicial branches,” Hufstetler said.
Collins said instead of choosing sides in an inter-party struggle, he’s set an example in his community through his military service and the foster home he ran with his wife.
“I think it’s a good idea to go down there without saying whose side I’m on,” Collins said. “Not laying it out will give me more negotiating power to benefit the district.”
Early voting already is under way for the July 31 primary that will decide which of the three men will take the seat. A runoff, if necessary, will be held Aug. 21. There is no Democratic candidate.