Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, appointed his preferred candidate to the state’s vacated Senate seat on Wednesday in defiance of President Trump.
Kemp chose multimillionaire businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to replace Senator Johnny Isakson, who stepped down today due to recurring health issues. Kemp reportedly believes Loeffler will help the GOP with suburban voters and women in particular, but some conservatives have criticized Loeffler’s membership on the board of Grady Memorial Hospital, the largest provider of abortions in Georgia.
President Trump and allies have made it clear to Kemp that they preferred Representative Doug Collins for the appointment. Collins is a staunch supporter of Trump and is the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
“I stand with hardworking Georgians and @POTUS,” Kemp wrote on Twitter in November. “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.”
The announcement came as Rep. Collins was in the midst of impeachment hearings in the House. Collins in a Sunday interview did not rule out the possibility of running for the senate seat in 2020 even if Loeffler was appointed.
According to Politico, Loeffler plans to use $20 million of her own fortune on the 2020 special election, where she would campaign to complete Isakson’s term. That sum may be enough to make potential challengers to her campaign think twice.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.), who earlier criticized Kemp for his intention to stick by Loeffler, attacked the governor again on Twitter when a press conference to announce Kemp’s appointment of Loeffler was confirmed.
“Governor Kemp announces the funeral time & location for his political career,” Gaetz wrote.