ATLANTA — He hasn’t made the appointment, yet Gov. Brian Kemp is already getting second-guessed for his upcoming appointment to fill a U.S. Senate seat. The appointment will replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is resigning because of health issues.
Pressure on the governor is coming from his fellow Republicans, who want the right candidate to fight off the state’s surging Democrats.
Kemp took online applications until last week to fill the U.S. Senate seat.
One of the resumes came from Kelly Loeffler, co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. Her letter to Kemp describes herself as someone “who will stand with President Trump… and you to Keep America Great."
But Trump supporter and Atlanta Tea Party founder Debbie Dooley sees something else in Loeffler.
"I think she's not a conservative. I think she's a Mitt Romney Republican. She’s not a Donald Trump Republican," Dooley said. "That’s an important distinction."
Dooley says Loeffler gave generously to Romney's 2012 campaign for president but gave nothing to Trump in 2016.
"This whole thing about appointing a replacement for Isakson has turned into a fiasco," Dooley said.
Dooley has backing from an article in Breitbart, an online pro-Trump outlet. Dooley has also researched Robyn Crittenden, the Republican-appointed interim Secretary of State who briefly replaced Kemp last year, whom Dooley describes as "a Democrat." Crittenden is now Kemp's commissioner of the Department of Human Services.
Both women are electoral newcomers. But either could help Republicans keep Isakson’s seat, says Kemp supporter and former state Rep Buzz Brockway.
"I think it makes a lot of sense to pick somebody who has a chance to appeal to women in the suburbs," Brockway, a Republlican, said.
But Dooley wants a proven Trump loyalist.
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U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, of Gainesville, has been outspoken in Congress as a defender of Trump. Collins, too, has submitted a resume – and could run anyway next year even if Kemp doesn’t appoint him.
"I can tell you now, without a doubt, people want Doug Collins," said Dooley.
The Tea Party Patriots Fund called on Kemp to appoint Collins Monday.
"Hell hath no fury like a base scorned," she said.
Brockway says Kemp has to make a pick that will win swing voters while appeasing the GOP base.
"This person has to unite the Republican party," Brockway said. "So it’s very dangerous. And it introduces all sorts of uncertainty into an election that already has a lot of uncertainty."
Kemp’s appointee would face a special election in 2020.
If victorious, he or she would face another race in 2022, when Isakson’s seat is normally up for grabs. Kemp would also face re-election that year, which means Kemp would potentially have his appointee on the ballot as a kind of Republican running mate.