Trump Allies Angered By Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's U.S. Senate Pick
(Source: npr.org)

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(Original link: npr.org)

Enlarge this image Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp plans to announce he is naming Kelly Loeffler (right) as the state's next U.S. senator, replacing Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down for health reasons. Loeffler is an owner of the Atlanta Aces WNBA team and is shown here during a September game. Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images hide caption
toggle caption Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp plans to announce he is naming Kelly Loeffler (right) as the state's next U.S. senator, replacing Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down for health reasons. Loeffler is an owner of the Atlanta Aces WNBA team and is shown here during a September game.
Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp plans to appoint Kelly Loeffler on Wednesday as the state's next U.S. senator, effective Jan. 1, according to two sources with knowledge of Kemp's decision. The businesswoman and Republican donor will fill the seat held by Sen. Johnny Isakson, who plans to retire Dec. 31 for health reasons .
Politics Citing 'Health Challenges,' Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson To Retire At End Of Year The pick comes despite strong opposition from prominent allies of President Trump, who is reported to have favored Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., for the seat. Loeffler's conservative bona fides have been questioned, with conservative talk show host Mark Levin referring to her as a "RINO" (Republican in name only) on Sunday.
Politics What The Site Of The Democratic Debate Says About Georgia, Role Of Black Voters Loeffler is a wealthy businesswoman without political experience. The CEO of Bakkt, a bitcoin-focused subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange Inc. casts herself as a "lifelong Republican" and tells a personal narrative of working her way up the corporate ladder from her family's farm in rural Illinois.
One of Kemp's most vocal critics over the weekend was close Trump ally Matt Gaetz, a Florida representative, who said Kemp was "ignoring" Trump because "you THINK you know better than @POTUS." Another Trump confidant, Fox News personality Sean Hannity, also endorsed Collins last week.
. @realDonaldTrump told you how to be supportive: Appoint @RepDougCollins .
You are ignoring his request because you THINK you know better than @POTUS .
If you substitute your judgement for the President’s, maybe you need a primary in 2022. Let’s see if you can win one w/o Trump https://t.co/vtjT4CyLMI
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) November 29, 2019 Kemp's director of communications, Candice Broce, fired back at Gaetz directly, calling him "oddly submissive to #TheSwamp," and said the appointment was Kemp's to make independently. Kemp's adviser and former campaign communications director Ryan Mahoney wrote: "mind your own business. We don't know you and we don't care what you think. "
Loeffler herself has faced backlash in the past week from some members of Georgia's conservative political community for past donations to Mitt Romney and ties to former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who did legal work for the WNBA team Loeffler co-owns, the Atlanta Dream.
Phil Kent, a conservative pundit and communications consultant who has worked with Loeffler, vouched for Loeffler's conservative politics, describing her as "a big opponent of Obamacare," a supporter of gun rights and "very tough" on illegal immigration.
"So she would check some of those boxes with the president," said Kent.
Kemp has generally been seen as a close ally of the president's. First elected governor in 2018, Kemp helped secure the GOP nomination with Trump's backing.
Amid the criticism, Kemp offered his own preemptive defense, writing on Twitter, "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 added, "Frankly, I could care less what the political establishment thinks."
Politics Want To Be The Next Georgia Senator? Apply Now! Loeffler takes the job following an online application process Kemp opened in September. She submitted her résumé on the day of the deadline.
Loeffler's company, Bakkt, offers a regulated market for bitcoin trading, and its parent company, 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.
She grew up on her family's corn and soybean farm in Illinois and 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."
"If our country is to embrace the conservative values that made America great, women must...