Georgia’s governor choose a wealthy businesswoman over a key Trump ally to fill an upcoming vacancy in the U.S. Senate.
Republican Governor Brian Kemp announced his selection of businesswoman Kelly Loeffler on Wednesday. Trump allies in the state wanted the governor to appoint Representative Doug Collins, one of U.S. President Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders in the House Judiciary Committee that is overseeing the impeachment inquiry.
The selection is believed to be an appeal to moderate suburban voters in the state of Georgia. Loeffler’s supporters believe she can appeal to women and suburban Atlanta voters, who have drifted from the party since Trump’s election.
Some Republican leaders pushed for the appointment of Collins instead due to his strong support for Trump, gun rights and anti-abortion efforts.
The businesswoman attempted to bring in support from the president during her remarks after the announcement. “I make no apologies for my conservative values,” she said, “and will proudly support President Trump’s conservative judges.”
Loeffler will succeed three-term Senator Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down at the end of the month because of his health. Isakson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2015 and recently underwent surgery to remove a cancerous growth from one of his kidneys.
The financial executive will serve for the final two years of Isakson’s term until the November 2020 special election. Also on next year’s ballot will be Republican Senator David Perdue, who is running for a second full term.
Loeffler’s appointment has been strongly supported by Senate GOP leadership. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said she was a “terrific appointment.”
Loeffler is the co-owner of the Atlanta Dream professional women’s basketball franchise and CEO of financial services company Bakkt, which offers a regulated market for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
She was previously an executive at Atlanta-based financial trading platform Intercontinental Exchange, which was founded by her husband, Jeff Sprecher.
Intercontinental Exchange owns the New York Stock Exchange. Her company Bakkt is a subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange.
Democrats hope to break the GOP’s hold on the Deep South in 2020 when both senate seats are up for grabs during a presidential election year.
Georgia is undergoing demographic changes making the state less rural and more diverse, which could make the state more competitive for Democrats than it has in the past.