Governor Brian Kemp picks Loeffler for vacancy over objections of Trump partisans
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
ATLANTA (CFP) — Kelly Loeffler, a multi-millionaire Atlanta finance executive and Republican mega-donor who co-owns the city’s WNBA franchise, will fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson.
Loeffler’s appointment to the Senate seat was announced by Governor Brian Kemp on December 4, despite a lukewarm reception of the idea at the White House and vocal opposition from some of President Donald Trump’s most fervent partisans.
She will seek the remaining two years of Isakson’s term in a special election in November.
Taking direct aim at the opposition to her appointment, Loeffler (pronouced LEFF-ler) described herself as a “lifelong conservative” who is pro-life, “pro-Second Amendment, pro-Trump, pro-military and pro-wall.”
“I make no apologies for my conservative values, and I look forward to supporting President Trump’s conservative justices,” she said.
In his introduction, Kemp described Loeffler as a “conservative businesswoman and political outsider.”
“Like our president, Kelly is ready to take on the status quo, the politically correct and the special interests,” Kemp said. “She knows that Washington is fundamentally broken. She knows that we need to drain the swamp.”
Kemp picked Loeffler after a public, two-month search in which he accepted applications from more than 500 would-be senators. She was among the last to apply.
Kemp conceded that his approach was “unorthodox” but said he went into the search with “no favors to repay and no intention of making any backroom deals.”
Loeffler, 50, who had not previously sought elective office, will become just the second woman to represent the Peach State in the Senate; the first, Rebecca Felton, was appointed to serve a single day back in 1922.
In addition to bringing gender diversity and an outsider persona to the GOP ticket, Loeffler will also be able to tap her personal fortune for the special election, in which candidates from all parties run against each other, with a runoff between the top two vote-getters if no one wins a majority.
Among the applicants passed over by Kemp was U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, one of Trump’s most vocal supporters in the House who, had he been appointed, would have become one of the president’s jurors in the looming Senate impeachment trial.
Kemp’s decision to choose Loeffler over Collins has been met with disdain by some of the president’s more vocal supporters, including Fox News host Sean Hannity, a one-time Atlantan who has been urging his followers to contact the governor to voice support for Collins.
Chief among the factors giving Trump supporters pause: In 2012, Loeffler gave $750,000 to a super PAC supporting the presidential candidacy of Utah U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, who has been one of the few voices in the Senate to offer criticism of the president.
Kemp took Loeffler to the White House to meet Trump before he announced her as his pick, a meeting that was reportedly tense and brief.
Collins has said he might run for the Senate in the special election against Loeffler, a race that would pit the president against Kemp, who won the governorship in 2018 after Trump backed him in the GOP primary.
Loeffler is currently the chief executive officer of Bakkt, a bitcoin company that is a subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange. She is also co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, which she purchased with a partner in 2010.
Her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the founder and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange. The couple live in Tuxedo Park, one of Atlanta’s most exclusive neighborhoods.
Isakson, 74, who has held the Senate seat since 2005, is retiring at the end of December due to health issues.
So far, only one Democrat has entered the special election race — Matt Lieberman, the son of former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2000.
Georgia’s other U.S. Senate seat will also be on the ballot in 2020, with Republican incumbent David Perdue trying to fend off a field of Democratic challengers.