Loeffler and Martinez

Sen.-designate Kelly Loeffler, R-Atlanta, meets Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez at the state Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.

Gov. Brian Kemp has named Atlanta business executive Kelly Loeffler to the upcoming vacancy in the U.S. Senate.

Loeffler will fill the seat Republican Johnny Isakson has held since 2005. He is retiring at the end of the year due to health concerns. Loeffler becomes only the second woman in state history to serve in the Senate.

“From the farm to the New York Stock Exchange, Kelly Loeffler has lived the American dream,” Kemp said. “I’m confident that she will work every single day to keep that same dream alive for our children, grandchildren and generations to come.”

In remarks at the state Capitol on Wednesday morning, Loeffler introduced herself as someone joining a fight against a liberal agenda.

She described herself as “a proud patriot, a devoted wife and a devout Christian.”

Kemp defied the wishes of many in his party — including President Donald Trump, whose endorsement by tweet last year pushed Kemp over then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in a runoff battle — to choose U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville for the seat.

Collins has been an outspoken supporter of Trump as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Even Fox News star Sean Hannity urged his audience to bombard Kemp’s office with calls in the days after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported Loeffler would be the governor’s choice, urging him to reconsider.

But Loeffler said she’s “unapologetically pro-Second Amendment, pro-military, pro-wall, pro-life and pro-Trump” and described herself as “disgusted by the impeachment circus.”

Kemp predicted Loeffler would stand with Trump and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who will be up for reelection in 2020.

The governor — in perhaps his highest-profile decision since taking office in January — said he’s appointed someone “who shares our conservative values and vision for a safer, stronger Georgia.”

He touched on many of his 2018 campaign themes in defending the Loeffler pick, saying she’d fight to strengthen the nation’s immigration laws and fight “against the radical left’s abortion-on-demand agenda.”

Loeffler is the CEO of Bakkt, a financial services firm. She is also a member of the executive management committee of Intercontinental Exchange, which owns financial exchanges for financial and commodity markets including the NYSE, and serves on the board of directors for Georgia Power Co.

Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based ICE.

Along with Mary Brock, Loeffler is a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream WNBA franchise.

She got the support of both Isakson and Perdue on Wednesday.

“Kelly’s business experience and acumen will be an asset to Georgia and the Senate,” Isakson said. “The same tireless work ethic that has helped her succeed in business will also help her succeed in serving Georgians and our nation.”

Perdue said advancing Trump’s agenda in the Senate, to continue the nation’s economic recovery and to serve Georgians, is his top priority.

“While Sen. Isakson leaves behind big shoes to fill, I look forward to working with Kelly Loeffler, my new partner in the U.S. Senate, to continue that positive change for Georgia and our country,” Perdue said.

Walton County’s congressman gave his endorsement as well, saying he trusts Kemp’s decision.

“He is a proven champion in the fight to protect life,” Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, said. “Simultaneously, he has further developed Georgia’s robust and thriving business environment. I congratulate him and Kelly Loeffler on her appointment to the U.S. Senate. I look forward to working with her to promote the conservative principles and values of Georgia and our great president.”

Hice said he’d been encouraged to apply for the Senate vacancy, but ultimately decided to remain in the House and seek a fourth term next year.

State Rep. Bruce Williamson of Monroe said he too is pleased with the choice.

“Our conservative governor, Brian Kemp, has done an outstanding job of delivering on his campaign promises,” Williamson said.

“I have every confidence in him to pick someone that shares the conservative, pro-life values which we embrace in Walton County. I join Sen. David Perdue and Congressman Jody Hice in congratulating Kelly Loeffler on her appointment to the U.S. Senate.”

Loeffler will take over the Senate seat on New Year’s Day and serve until the winner of a Nov. 3 special election — and likely a runoff — is determined. The winner will serve out the remainder of Isakson’s term, into early January 2023.

When she’s sworn in, Loeffler will become the first Republican woman to serve in the Senate from Georgia. Gov. Thomas W. Hardwick appointed Rebecca Latimer Felton to a vacancy in 1922 and she served just one day.

Felton, an 87-year-old Democrat, was the first female senator.

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