Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp defies Trump in appointing Kelly Loeffler to Senate seat – CNBC

Kelly Loeffler on the floor of the NYSE.

Richard Drew | AP

Defying President Donald Trump, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday tapped financial services executive Kelly Loeffler to fill the state’s soon-to-be vacated Senate seat.

According to reports, Trump had pressed Kemp to appoint Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, a staunch ally, to fill the seat of GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, who will step down on Dec. 31.

Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, has been a full-throated defender of the president during the House impeachment process led by Democrats. His appointment to the Senate could have aided Trump when proceedings move to that chamber.

Kemp reportedly took Loeffler to meet with the president in the final days of November to try reassure him of her loyalty, though Trump questioned her credentials for the Senate post. She has never run for office.

Loeffler, who will be the first woman senator from Georgia in nearly 100 years, will serve in the role until a special election is held in November 2020 when she will have to win the vote. Collins has not ruled out the possibility of running for the seat at that time.

Collins did not respond to a request for comment.

Conservative groups aligned with Trump, who also pushed for Collins’ appointment, have been critical of Loeffler, regarding her as out-of-touch with GOP social issues. Kemp in a series of tweets on Nov. 27 called the attacks “absolutely absurd,” adding that he “could care less what the political establishment thinks.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that Kemp’s selection will be fully supported by the Republicans.

Loeffler has said she expects to spend $20 million on her 2020 Senate campaign.

In a statement issued by Kemp’s office on Dec. 4, Loeffler indicated her opposition to the impeachment inquiry and emphasized her determination to stand by the president.

“With all of the important work to be done in D.C. and here in Georgia, I’m disgusted by the impeachment circus and strongly oppose it,” she said. “It’s a sideshow and partisan distraction. Democrats need to quit playing politics. We’re facing the fight of our generation – and that’s why I’m here.”

The White House did not immediately respond to an email request for comment on Loeffler’s appointment.