Since opening an online application process to fill the seat, which Sen. Johnny Isakson plans to leave at the end of the year for health reasons, Gov. Brian Kemp has received hundreds of resumes from hopeful senators.
A few names have emerged as leading contenders. One is U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, Georgia, for whom President Donald Trump has reportedly advocated.
Another name has risen to the top, too: Kelly Loeffler. Kemp and Loeffler met with Trump on Sunday. According to a statement from White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, they had a “very friendly meeting,” and they discussed “many things including his potential appointment of a senator and the timing of the appointment.” Other reports allege the meeting went poorly, considering Trump’s support for Collins.
Regardless, since the meeting, Kemp and Loeffler have faced blowback from conservative Georgians who support Trump and Collins and have criticized Loeffler.
“I think [Kemp] is trying to appeal to suburban women in the metro area, and he is willing to turn his back on the rural areas that actually put him over the top,” said Debbie Dooley, co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party about Kemp Wednesday on Fetch Your News, a North Georgia conservative radio program. “I think he’s going to be in for a rude awakening because I know his office has been slammed with phone calls.”
Kemp pushed back strongly on Twitter Wednesday.
“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,” he said. “Frankly, I could care less what the political establishment thinks. Happy Thanksgiving! More information after the holiday!”
Phil Kent, conservative pundit and public relations consultant, worked with Loeffler in 2013 when her name was previously floated as a candidate to replace former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. He vouched for her conservative platform.
“I know she was a big opponent of Obamacare,” he said. “She’s a proponent of the second amendment. She was very tough on illegal immigration. So she would check some of those boxes with the president.”
Loeffler is the chief executive of Bakkt, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Intercontinental Exchange Inc (ICE) and co-owns Georgia’s WNBA team, the Atlanta Dream. Bakkt offers a regulated market for bitcoin trading, and ICE owns and operates commodity and financial market exchanges, including the New York Stock Exchange. Loeffler previously worked as ICE’s chief communications and marketing officer and is married to its founder and CEO, Jeff Sprecher.
Loeffler calls herself a “lifelong Republican” in her resume. She grew up on her family’s corn and soybean farm in rural Illinois. She wrote in her cover letter to Kemp that, “From working on the family farm to creating jobs and opportunity in the business world, I have been blessed to live the American Dream. I am offering myself to serve hardworking Georgians as a political outsider in the United States Senate to protect that dream for everyone.”