Many Americans first watched U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, during President Trump’s impeachment hearings in December.
But he was a familiar face in Hall County long before that key moment in modern political times, having served in Congress since 2013, and before that, a state lawmaker, lawyer and 11-year pastor of Chicopee Baptist Church.
Time “has gone by quickly,” Collins, 54, said in an interview with The Times last week, of his time in Congress. “It’s been good.”
In the final stretch before a U.S. Senate special election on Nov. 3, the four-term congressman reflected on his time in the U.S. House representing the 9th District, which spans Northeast Georgia.
Occupation: pastor, lawyer
Political experience: He has served as U.S. House 9th District representative since 2013. Previously, he had served as a state legislator since 2007.
“When you first come to Washington, you learn the rules, find out how you pass bills, work on the issues we have here in Georgia,” he said. “We always made a promise we were going to work on water issues, broadband issues.”
But then Collins moved into national legislation, such as the First Step Act, focusing on recidivism-reducing programs for federal offenders that would ultimately pass as a combination of legislation. The bill was signed by Trump in December 2019.
He also introduced the Music Modernization Act, which tackles digital music companies regularly failing “to pay songwriters and copyright owners properly for interactive streaming services,” Collins wrote in a 2018 piece in Washington-based The Hill.
Collins said that bill was especially important as “Georgia has such a rich entertainment community, from artists to songwriters.”
“Becoming a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee probably changed the trajectory of my service in Washington, D.C., in many ways, especially having to lead the fight against the impeachment, against the investigations and against the attacks of the Democrats on our way of life,” he said.
As the ranking member of the committee, Collins was at the center of impeachment proceedings and served as a top advocate for Trump.
At the time, he told The Times that the partisan process, particularly the actions of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff, conflicts with what legislators are supposed to prioritize.
“They damaged the very fabric of what it means to be in a minority and majority in this body,” Collins said. “We only exist to get things done, in a sense of trust between members.”
In comparing his state and federal tenures, he said, “In the states, there’s a lot you can get done. There are very few times a bill comes forward that is purely partisan. … Once you get to Washington, D.C., everything tends to be purely partisan. The person who has experience at the state level benefits greatly when they get to Washington. They understand the process of voting and how you build coalitions.”
Collins continued: “And for me, it’s never been about compromising my values. I’ll never compromise being a conservative.”
One of the proudest moments for Collins during his tenure was the First Step Act, which he called “a generation-changing bill.”
“Do we just want to spend money to put people in cages or do we want to put them in there and say, ‘Look, while you’re in jail, if you want to get over your drug addiction, if you want to help your mental health issues, if you want to have job skills and training … to me that’s a conservative approach,” Collins said.
He also points to the Intercountry Adoption Information Act as a key achievement in Congress. The bill requires the Secretary of State’s office to include in its annual report information about countries that have issued new restrictions on adoptions to the United States. The Department of State would also have to publish information about the department’s efforts to work with those countries to resume adoption to the United States.
“We just found out the Senate passed and it’s on its way to the president to be signed,” Collins said.
He said one of the reasons he wanted to run for U.S. Senate is to “take what we’ve learned up here in North Georgia and apply it all across the state.”
Collins pointed to Georgia’s ongoing battles with Florida over water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, which includes Lake Lanier in the headwaters.
“Each part of our state has different needs when it comes to water,” he said.
Ensuring a strong national economy “and standing in the world” would be priorities as senator, but “then, there’s always going to be the local issues for me, such as agriculture,” Collins said.
Congressional work has impacted family life, but he takes advantage of home time as much as possible, he said. His wife, Lisa, whom he calls his “secret weapon,” has joined Collins on the campaign trail, appearing at events.
And though he long gave up the pulpit, Collins does occasionally put on the preacher hat.
“I do funerals and weddings, and occasionally a sermon, a Sunday morning somewhere,” he said. “If I get to preach, I’m preaching. It’s not about politics. In fact, I tell people, ‘If you came to see Fox News, go watch Fox News. We’re going to open Scripture and talk about Scripture this morning.’”