Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp reportedly intends to appoint Kelly Loeffler, a businesswoman and Republican donor, to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is retiring from the Senate. President Trump is said to have favored Rep. Doug Collins, one of his most ardent House defenders, for the nod.
Kemp reportedly believes that, with Georgia becoming increasingly competitive for Democrats due to the preferences of women in Atlanta’s suburbs, Loeffler is a more attractive face of the party than Collins, and has a better chance of holding the seat for the GOP in 2020 and 2022.
However, his move might backfire because Loeffler faces a special “jungle election” in 2020. If Collins enters that race, it might pave the way for a Democrat to win. Let’s hope that, if Loeffler as Senator supports the president and his policies, Trump will dissuade Collins from challenging her.
Some of Trump’s allies have lashed out at Kemp for bypassing Collins. Rep. Matt Gaetz admonished:
@realDonaldTrump told you how to be supportive: Appoint @RepDougCollins.
You are ignoring his request because you THINK you know better than @POTUS.
If you substitute your judgement for the President’s, maybe you need a primary in 2022. Let’s see if you can win one w/o Trump.
This is cult of personality stuff (or else shameless sucking up). As governor, it is Kemp’s job to pick a replacement for Isakson. In a sense, therefore, Gaetz has it backwards. Trump (or his supporters) wants to substitute his judgment for the man whose duty it is to do the judging.
Moreover, Kemp has reason to believe he knows Georgia politics as well as, if not better, than Trump. Trump’s political instincts are excellent. However, Kemp served for eight years as Georgia’s secretary of state. Last year, he was elected governor, defeating Stacey Abrams in a difficult race (with Trump’s help, to be sure).
Kemp’s assessment that Loeffler has a better chance than Collins of holding the Senate seat cannot be dismissed just because Trump may want Collins to be rewarded with the job.
The concern I have about this appointment isn’t that Trump might not agree with it. My concern is whether Loeffler is a solid conservative.
Some conservatives have noted that she contributed in the past to Mitt Romney. That shouldn’t bother anyone. Many solid conservatives backed Romney back in the day.
Loeffler is said to have ties with Stacey Abrams. Reportedly, she did legal work for the WNBA team Loeffler owns. If that’s the only tie, it shouldn’t be of concern.
The real question is where Loeffler stands on the issues. Phil Kent, a conservative pundit and communications consultant who has worked with Loeffler, describes her as “a big opponent of Obamacare,” a supporter of gun rights, and “very tough” on illegal immigration. If so, that checks some very important conservative boxes.
It’s also worth noting that Kemp himself is a solid conservative. However, attractive Loeffler might be as a candidate, I doubt he would appoint her if he had reason to question her conservatism. Kemp said:
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. Frankly, I could care less what the political establishment thinks.
Finally, Loeffler will have a strong incentive to be a reliable conservative, at least for the first few years. If she isn’t, Collins or some other strong conservative will likely challenge her.
In the end, I lack the knowledge needed to answer the question of whether Loeffler is a strong and reliable conservative. This, though, is the question people should be asking, not whether Kemp erred (or sinned) by disagreeing with Trump.