Businesswoman Kelly Loeffler promised Georgians she was a devout Christian and strong supporter of President Donald Trump as she accepted her appointment to the state's soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat on Wednesday.
Responding to critics who have intimated she would be disloyal to the White House or insufficiently conservative, Loeffler said she would have Trump's back and would support pro-life legislation in Congress.
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"I haven't spent my life trying to get to Washington," she said. "Here's what folks are going to find out about me. I'm a lifelong conservative. Pro-Second Amendment, pro-military, pro-wall, and pro-Trump. I make no apologies for my conservative values and will proudly support President Trump's conservative judges."
She added that she opposed the "impeachment circus" led by Democrats against Trump. The soft-spoken Loeffler made light of her speaking style, saying one didn't have to be "shrill" to be heard.
Georgia governor Brian Kemp (R.), in one of the most significant decisions of his first year in office, tapped the wealthy Republican donor and financial executive for the position despite White House opposition. Trump and his allies preferred Rep. Doug Collins (R., Ga.), a vocal defender of the administration throughout the impeachment inquiry.
Kemp, who won his election in 2018 with Trump's endorsement, described Loeffler as a "conservative businesswoman and political outsider." He noted in his remarks announcing her nomination that Loeffler would be the first female senator from Georgia in nearly a century. The only other was Rebecca Latimer Felton, America's first female senator, who served for one day in 1922.
Loeffler is a "hardworking businesswoman who will protect the American dream from the socialist nightmare of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren," Kemp said.
Loeffler runs the Bakkt bitcoin trading platform and previously served as an executive at Intercontinental Exchange. She is also a co-owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream. The league's affiliation with Planned Parenthood led to some conservative criticism of Kemp's appointment of Loeffler.
Kemp in May signed a bill—since blocked by a federal judge—banning abortions once a heartbeat is detected. He told reporters he would not appoint anyone who did not share his values on the issue, and Loeffler said that she was "strongly pro-life," adding "the abortion-on-demand agenda is immoral."
Loeffler will fill the seat of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), who announced in August that he would step down because of health problems. He will officially resign at year's end. Loeffler will then run in a special election in November, at the same time Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.) is seeking a second term.
Kemp praised Isakson as a "public servant through and through." The 74-year-old Isakson, who was first elected in 2004 and is in his third term, gave his farewell speech to Congress on Tuesday.
Loeffler is expected to spend $20 million of her own fortune on the 2020 race, Politico reported, but will also accept money from donors and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The pro-Republican Senate Leadership Fund PAC said in a statement that it was excited for her candidacy, and would assist her any way it could.