U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (left) and U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (right, with Gov. Brian Kemp) are battling on the Republican side in a heated Senate race. (Photos by Beau Evans)

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., released a campaign ad Friday attacking Republican opponent U.S. Rep. Doug Collins’ record as a former criminal defense attorney, highlighting a growing focus on law enforcement issues in the race for her seat.

Campaign staffers for Collins, a four-term congressman and preacher who is vying to unseat Loeffler, slammed the ad as an example of elitism by the billionaire Loeffler and questioned her grasp of the criminal justice process.

The ad points out Collins’ stint as a defense attorney in Gainesville before joining Congress, noting that his firm Collins and Csider took on several clients facing gang, drug trafficking and assault charges.

Those were all court-appointed to Collins’ firm because they were indigent, his campaign explained. The campaign also said Collins did not represent any of the clients himself.

Even so, Loeffler’s campaign called the criminal clientele at odds with Collins’ conservative image as she seeks to cast herself as a law-and-order candidate opposed to defunding police agencies and the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

“Now, Doug Collins is a career politician who pretends to be a rock-solid law and order conservative,” said Loeffler spokeswoman Caitlin O’Dea. “He talks a good game on TV, but his dangerous record tells another story.”

Collins’s campaign punched back quickly with scoffs at Loeffler’s penchant for using a private jet to travel and insider-trading accusations that have dogged her for months. Campaign spokesman Dan McLagan said Loeffler’s wealth has left her out of touch with the workings of criminal courts.

“Poor people in Kelly’s world of mansions and private jets do not deserve representation in court,” McLagan said. “Accusation equals conviction if your bank balance does not have enough zeroes in it.”

Loeffler, a Buckhead businesswoman whose husband’s company owns the New York Stock Exchange, has pumped $15 million of her own money into her campaign – by far the heftiest bank account in the race.

But Collins’ campaign has trumpeted his recent outraising of Loeffler by about $400,000 in donations since April, which supporters say shows his clout with grassroots conservatives.

Meanwhile, the campaign for Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Democratic front-runner in the race who is senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, has touted reeling in more donations – nearly $3 million – than both Loeffler and Collins combined in recent months.

But the bulk of attention in the race has been paid to the back-and-forth between Collins and Loeffler as each tries to peel away Republican voters from the other.

Lately, Collins has run several social-media videos attempting to tie Loeffler to the nonprofit Planned Parenthood, due to backing the birth-control group receives from the Women’s National Basketball Association. Loeffler co-owns a WNBA team in Atlanta.

But Loeffler has sought to flip her WNBA ties to her advantage by recently castigating the league’s decision to broadcast Black Lives Matter-related slogans on players’ uniforms. Loeffler called the outcry over stance against the uniform design as evidence of “cancel culture” trying to silence her views.

The race for Loeffler’s seat has drawn a field of 21 candidates in a special election to fill the remainder of former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. Isakson retired at the end of last year, prompting Gov. Brian Kemp to tap Loeffler to hold the seat until the election.

The Nov. 3 election is an open election, meaning candidates from all parties will be on the same ballot. A runoff between the top two finishers will be held in January if no candidate gains a simple majority.