Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is set to appoint Kelly Loeffler, a financial services executive and part owner of Atlanta’s WNBA team, to succeed GOP Senator Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down because of health troubles.
A Republican official familiar with the plans confirmed the news. Kemp’s office declined to comment, and an official with the National Republican Senatorial Committee also declined to comment.
Isakson, 74, announced in August that he would step down this month with more than two years to go in his term as he struggles with the effects of Parkinson’s disease. He is expected to deliver his formal goodbye address from the floor of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, and an announcement from Kemp is expected later in the week.
Loeffler has emerged as Kemp’s choice amid public pressure on the governor to appoint Republican Congressman Doug Collins, an ally of President Trump and top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee who is about to take a star turn at the start of the panel’s hearings this week into the possible impeachment of the president.
But in choosing Loeffler, Kemp is signaling concern that his party is struggling to maintain the support of women and that the business executive and political novice could help the party draw back support when she appears on the ballot in a special election next year and in 2022 for a full term.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee accused Loeffler of buying her Senate seat.
“This broken appointment process has turned into a corrupt coronation for a donor who’s given millions of dollars to politicians from both parties and is now trying to buy a Senate seat,” DSCC spokesman Stewart Boss said in a statement. “It’s everything Georgians hate about Washington and why they’ll reject Kelly Loeffler in 2020.”
Next year, both of Georgia’s Senate seats will be up for grabs: Loeffler will face a “jungle primary” open special election for her seat and Senator David Perdue, also a Republican, will be running for reelection for a second term.
Democrats are still coalescing around potential candidates. Jon Ossoff, who raised more than $23 million for an unsuccessful 2017 bid for an open House seat in the state, is already running against Perdue, as is Teresa Tomlinson, the former mayor of Columbus, Georgia.
Former State Senator Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost a bid for governor against Kemp last year, has said she will not be a Senate candidate in 2020.