Kemp to Appoint Businesswoman to Open Georgia Senate Seat

Kelly Loeffler / YouTube

Gov. Brian Kemp (R.) will appoint businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to Georgia's open U.S. Senate seat, according to multiple reports, making her the second woman to hold the office in state history.

Loeffler will take the place of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), who announced in August he would resign at year's end for health reasons. Loeffler, a prominent Republican donor, runs the Bakkt bitcoin trading platform and previously served as an executive at Intercontinental Exchange. She also co-owns the WNBA's Atlanta Dream.

Rebecca Latimer Felton is the only other woman to ever serve in the Senate from Georgia. She served just one day in 1922 following the death of Sen. Tom Watson.

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Kemp is expected to make the official announcement this week. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Loeffler has already spoken with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and will have the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The decision to appoint Loeffler puts Kemp at odds with the White House, which repeatedly pushed for Kemp to nominate Rep. Doug Collins (R., Ga.), the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee. Collins is a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump and has defended his administration throughout the impeachment inquiry led by House Democrats.

Kemp hit back against some corners of the Trump orbit who were critical of his selection process, tweeting Wednesday the idea he would appoint someone who wasn't a strong conservative and backer of Trump was "ridiculous." Trump's endorsement of Kemp in the 2018 Republican primary helped him easily win the party's gubernatorial nomination.

Loeffler will run in a special jungle election for the seat in 2020 to determine who completes the remaining two years of Isakson's term. Her future colleague, Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.), is running for a second term in 2020, setting up an unusual situation in Georgia where both Senate seats will be up for grabs in the same year.

Kemp's allies told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that tapping Loeffler is a way to shore up female Republican support, which has particularly flagged in the suburbs in the Trump era. Kemp nearly lost the governor's race because Democrat Stacey Abrams performed well in metro Atlanta's vote-heavy suburbs, particularly with college-educated women.

Isakson's seat is up for a regular election in 2022, when Kemp will presumably seek a second term as governor and could run alongside Loeffler.