by Jason Hopkins
Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to appoint financial executive Kelly Loeffler to the U.S. Senate, replacing ailing GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Kemp is expected to announce Loeffler sometime next week, according to several senior GOP officials who spoke with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A source familiar with Kemp’s deliberations also told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the governor is expected to announce his decision in the coming days.
The announcement would mark the end of months-long backroom lobbying by applicants hoping to become the state’s next U.S. senator.
Isakson, who has served in the Senate since 2005, announced in late August that he would be stepping down from his seat at the end of the year, concluding that his health challenges were “taking their toll” and preventing him from properly serving in Congress. The three-term Republican senator from Georgia announced his Parkinson’s diagnosis before his 2016 reelection, but said at the time the disease would not affect his ability to work.
Upon Isakson’s announcement in August, Kemp said he would be begin accepting applications from those willing and qualified to serve the remainder of Isakson’s term before running for election in the 2020 cycle. Hundreds of individuals, including many people who never held elected office, applied for the job. After several months, Kemp came closer to settling on Loeffler, a financial executive with deep ties to the Georgia business community.
Loeffler co-owns Georgia’s WNBA team, the Atlanta Dream, and is the chief executive of Bakkt, which is a subsidiary of the Georgia-based Intercontinental Exchange Inc. She is married to the Intercontinental Exchange’s founder and CEO, Jeff Sprecher. Together, the two have dropped considerable donations to the Republican National Committee in recent time.
Kemp is reportedly behind Loeffler because he believes her candidacy will attract female voters, a constituency that has hedged away from the GOP in the state since the rise of President Donald Trump. However, more hardline conservatives have expressed trepidation over Loeffler, pointing to her past contributions to Democratic candidates and that she has never run for office before, drawing questions over whether she is prepared to mount what could be a tough 2020 campaign.
The president has pressured Kemp to instead appoint GOP Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, a staunch conservative who has stood strongly behind the administration. The governor organized a meeting with Loeffler and Trump Sunday in a bid to assuage the president’s concerns. However, the meeting reportedly did not go over well, as Trump was still not convinced Loeffler’s appointment was a good decision.
Kemp, for his part, has adamantly pushed back against the idea that Loeffler is not sufficiently conservative enough.
“I stand with hardworking Georgians and [Trump]. The idea that I would appoint someone to the U.S. Senate that is NOT pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, pro-freedom, and 100% supportive of our President (and his plan to Keep America Great) is ridiculous,” Kemp tweeted Wednesday. “The attacks and games are absolutely absurd. Frankly, I could care less what the political establishment thinks. Happy Thanksgiving! More information after the holiday!”
In her application for the position, Loeffler said she would “stand with President Trump” and work to “Keep America Great,” invoking Trump’s 2020 campaign slogan.
A spokesperson for Kemp’s office did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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