Republican Doug Collins finished a long campaign with a huge victory Tuesday night over Democrat Jody Cooley in winning Georgia’s newly drawn 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"I am excited and humbled by the support we have received for three elections now and 16 months of campaigning," Collins said after delivering an acceptance speech to a large crowd at the Hunt Tower off the Gainesville square.
Collins, who with 11 of 20 counties reporting captured 76.8 percent of the vote to Cooley’s 23.2 percent, said his opponents in the GOP primary, including conservative radio personality Martha Zoller in the Aug. 21 runoff, "helped make me a stronger candidate.
"And Jody did a wonderful job articulating his views," he said. "Although we disagreed on just about everything, Jody did a good job and he is a wonderful asset to this community."
Cooley, who gathered with supporters across the square at Recess Southern Gastro Pub, called Collins at 9 p.m., congratulating him on his victory.
"I knew it was a difficult race," he said, following the phone call. "I’m very proud of the race we ran. I’m very proud of my family and friends that supported me. I’m proud and thankful of the contributors who gave to the campaign.
"I did what we wanted to do, which was to try to meet as many people as we could around the district and to get our message out the best that we could. We didn’t do a good enough job of that and not enough people met us or agreed with us."
The race between the two friends and Gainesville lawyers was quiet. They held several debates, including a mostly quiet one at the Gainesville Civic Center on Oct. 16.
And while both differed sharply on some issues, they agreed that the U.S. economy was their overriding concern, with both saying they supported a balanced federal budget.
For Cooley, this was his first foray into politics beyond a short stint on the Gainesville City Board of Education.
Collins had worked in the state House as the 27th District representative and floor leader for Gov. Nathan Deal.
In his acceptance speech, he said that when he started his campaign, he set out to do his best.
"We’re going to continue to do that, because when we go to Washington, I’ll never forget ... who I represent," Collins said. "Here’s my thought: I’m one person representing 700,000 who just couldn’t make it to Washington. That’ll always be at the forefront of my mind."
Collins takes office Jan. 1 in the new 9th District, which spans Northeast Georgia. The congressman formerly representing Hall and area counties was U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, who was re-elected to the represent the 14th District.
Collins said his first concern in his new job is the federal budget.
"We’ve got to quit spending our way into a fiscal oblivion ... and we’ve got to work on getting jobs," he said. "Those are the kinds of things I worked on in Atlanta. Those are the kinds of things I want to work on in Washington."