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Looming Senate pick highlights Georgia GOP's suburban challenge

11Alive Poll: Suburban voters split on gender lines

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — For about the last 15 years, Georgia Republicans didn’t really have to chase swing voters because the party’s base was so strong. But population and demographics are catching up with them.

The change in Georgia’s voting pattern is as obvious as a look at the skyline in Dunwoody—a once-distant suburb that has urbanized and filled with new voters tilting toward Democrats.

"Downtown Atlanta has spread out to what we used to call the doughnut of metro Atlanta," said Republican strategist Susan Meyers. Within it are women voters who seek moderation in politics, she said. 

It explains why Gov. Brian Kemp appears drawn to a political newcomer, basketball team owner Kelly Loeffler, as his choice for a US Senate vacancy – even as other voices loudly tout Republican Congressman Doug Collins for the seat instead.

RELATED: Report: Trump prefers Collins over Kemp's pick for Isakson's Senate seat

"I’d like the governor to appoint you," Fox News host Sean Hannity told Collins on his cable TV program Tuesday. 

"I hope that happens. Would you take it if offered?" he asked.

"Yes, Sean we would. We believe it’d be great for Georgia, but also for this president," Collins answered, while also saying the choice was Gov. Kemp's to make. 

RELATED: Gov. Kemp fumes at ‘attacks’ on Twitter over Senate appointment

In Atlanta’s suburbs, support for President Trump and the Republican party has shifted from solid to spotty. In a hypothetical presidential match between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump, our 11Alive poll this month showed suburban men evenly split. Suburban women backed Biden by eight points.

"When you have women Republicans running for office, that can sometimes stop some of that erosion of women to the Democrats," said Ken Alper, president of SurveyUSA, which conducted the poll. 

RELATED: 11Alive Poll: Georgians divided on 'heartbeat' abortion law, support legalizing casino gambling

In Alpharetta, voter Kristy Carter said moderation in a candidate is "important, so that they’re not way one side or way the other." Carter is a transplant from Missouri.

"I’d be more open to a woman running as a Republican," said Democrat Jackie Visnius of Alpharetta, who is not a fan of the president.  

RELATED: Tea Party founder: Gov. Kemp's U.S. Senate choice is a 'fiasco'

And while Loeffler told Kemp she would support Trump, Meyers says she may win more votes among suburban women than Collins can.

"Some of the single women who live out in the suburbs are more moderate. And they may identify with a woman more than they may identify with a white male," Meyers said. 


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