Kemp picks Kelly Loeffler to succeed Isakson in US Senate

FILE-In this Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011 file photo, Mary Brock, right, and Kelly Loeffler cheer from their courtside seats as the Atlanta Dream basketball team plays in the second half of their WNBA basketball game, in Atlanta. Republican donor and financial services executive Loeffler tapped by Georgia governor Kemp for U.S. Senate seat as three-term Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down because of health issues.

ATLANTA (AP) — An Associated Press source says Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has chosen a Republican donor and financial services executive from Georgia as his appointment to the U.S. Senate.

The source, a GOP political consultant, says Kelly Loeffler is Kemp’s pick to replace three-term Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down because of health issues. The source spoke on condition of anonymity on Monday because Kemp has yet to publicly announce the decision.

Loeffler is a political newcomer, perhaps best known as co-owner of the Atlanta Dream professional woman’s basketball franchise. She’ll have to defend the seat next November as Republicans battle to maintain control of the Senate and the White House.

By picking Loeffler, Kemp defied President Donald Trump and his allies who had pushed for Rep. Doug Collins, one of Trump’s staunchest defenders in Congress. That could set up a bitter GOP clash over the seat in 2020, as Collins has publicly left open the door to running against Loeffler for the seat.

Isakson’s exit means both of Georgia’s GOP-held U.S. Senate seats will be on the ballot alongside Trump in 2020, raising the state’s profile as a political battleground where Republicans still dominate but Democrats have made substantial inroads in recent elections.

Loeffler is the CEO of financial services firm Bakkt, which offers a regulated market for Bitcoin. She was previously an executive at Intercontinental Exchange, a behemoth founded by her husband that owns the New York Stock Exchange. Bakkt is a subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange.

In about 10 more months, the Senate seat goes to an open-to-all special election for the last two years of Isakson’s term in November 2020. Also on the ballot will be Republican Sen. David Perdue, one of the Senate’s most vocal Trump defenders, who is up for reelection.

In the event of a Loeffler victory in 2020, she would be the first woman elected to the Senate from Georgia.

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Andrew Taylor reported from Washington.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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