ATLANTA — Georgia’s governor has chosen a wealthy businesswoman and political newcomer to fill the Senate seat of retiring Republican Johnny Isaakson.
Gov. Brian Kemp's choice of Kelly Loeffler pushes aside President Donald Trump’s preferred candidate in a play for the moderate suburban voters who have fled the Republican party.
An Associated Press source says Trump made it clear he preferred to see one of his most outspoken supporters, Rep. Doug Collins, in the Senate seat. But the person familiar with Trump's thinking says he's since resigned himself to the pick.
Democrats hope to flip Georgia in the coming elections.
Here's the reaction from both sides to Loeffler's appointment.
SENATOR JOHNNY ISAKSON
“I congratulate Kelly Loeffler on her historic appointment to the United States Senate. Kelly’s business experience and acumen will be an asset to Georgia and the Senate. The same tireless work ethic that has helped her succeed in business will also help her succeed in serving Georgians and our nation,” said Isakson. “It has been the honor of a lifetime for me to serve this great state in the U.S. Senate, and my staff and I will work closely with Kelly to ensure a smooth transition.”
Kelly Loeffler Senate appointee
SENATOR DAVID PERDUE
“My number one goal is to continue the best economic turnaround in U.S. history and focus on the needs of the people of Georgia. The only way to ensure that happens is to advance President Trump’s agenda in the U.S. Senate. While Senator Isakson leaves behind big shoes to fill, I look forward to working with Kelly Loeffler, my new partner in the U.S. Senate, to continue that positive change for Georgia and our country.”
SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE BUTCH MILLER
“Governor Kemp was tasked with appointing a replacement for the retiring Senator Johnny Isakson, a huge challenge! He has placed key Georgians in appointments in his brief tenure as governor. His appointment for the United States Senate will be no exception. Kelly Loeffler has a strong business record and she will use those assets in the US Senate representing Georgia. I look forward to working with her.”
CONGRESSMAN JODY HICE
"I have known Brian Kemp for over a decade. As a friend and as Governor, he has proven to be an effective leader for both the state of Georgia and the conservative movement. He is a proven champion in the fight to protect life. Simultaneously, he has further developed Georgia's robust and thriving business environment. I congratulate him and Kelly Loeffler on her appointment to the U.S. Senate. I look forward to working with her to promote the conservative principles and values of Georgia and our great President."
“It really can't be a coincidence that she applied at the very last minute and then they shut off applications. It looks very much like the fix was in, that it was a done deal. In the two weeks since, there haven’t been a ton of efforts to reach out to these conservative groups who have expressed concern.”
“Governor Kemp’s pick of a wealthy political mega-donor for a Senate seat has done nothing but intensify the already vicious attacks members of his own party are launching against him — and her,” said Alex Floyd, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “His sham application process has resulted in a total mess of an appointment that’s leaving Republicans with a wounded candidate even before she’s formally announced.”
NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE
"Governor Kemp made a phenomenal pick by appointing successful business and civic leader Kelly Loeffler. Her business acumen and leadership gives Georgia a unique and valuable voice in the U.S. Senate who can help President Trump and our Republican majority continue to bolster a record-breaking economy, strengthen our military and confirm constitutionalist judges. Loeffler is the principled conservative leader that Georgians can count on to run alongside the President and Senator David Perdue to victory in November."
SENATOR MITCH McCONNELL
"I welcome Governor Kemp’s announcement that he will appoint Kelly Loeffler to serve the people of Georgia as their next United States Senator.
"Everybody knows that a generational leader like Johnny Isakson is irreplaceable, but Ms. Loeffler has an impressive record in business and community leadership. I am confident she is well prepared to continue Sen. Isakson’s historic legacy of advocating for veterans, strengthening our national defense, and fighting for middle-class families.
"I look forward to the Senator-designate joining our Republican majority in January as we continue to focus on fighting for American families, rebuilding our armed forces, and confirming impressive men and women to our federal courts.
"Senator-designate Loeffler will have my full support for reelection in 2020 as a Republican incumbent and I encourage all my colleagues to join me."
SARAH RIGGS AMICO
“Governor* Kemp’s appointment of GOP mega-donor Kelly Loeffler to the US Senate (over Donald Trump’s preferred nominee) shows that even the president’s closest allies see him as a liability. Ms. Loeffler’s appointment is also an open acknowledgment that the GOP is struggling desperately with women voters. Unfortunately for the Georgia GOP, Georgia women won’t be fooled so easily. Kelly Loeffler is anti-choice and does not believe in a woman’s right to privately make her own reproductive healthcare decisions.”