Gov. Kemp of Georgia Expected to Tap Kelly Loeffler for Senate Seat

ATLANTA — A politically untested businesswoman is expected to be appointed this week to a soon-to-be-vacated United States Senate seat in Georgia, a move that would pit the state’s governor against President Trump, who had lobbied for a different candidate.

The choice of the business executive, Kelly Loeffler, to fill the seat set off alarm bells among Mr. Trump’s most ardent defenders and was seen by political observers as an attempt by Brian Kemp, the governor, to shore up Republican support from suburban women.

The decision, confirmed Monday by a Republican congressional staffer who requested anonymity because the choice had not been made public, reveals an intraparty rift over the best way to maintain Republican dominance in Georgia.

Mr. Kemp’s choice was first reported by other publications, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which said that Mr. Kemp is expected to announce his decision Wednesday morning.

The website for Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, called Ms. Loeffler a “centrist businesswoman” whose appointment could “seriously harm the White House’s efforts to end the Democrats’ ongoing Ukraine hearings and other pointless investigations.”

The Senate seat is being vacated at the end of the year by Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, who is experiencing health problems. Cody Hall, a spokesman for Mr. Kemp, declined to comment Monday.

But political observers in the state interpreted Mr. Kemp’s pick as an effort to shore up the party’s support among suburban women, in anticipation of a primary election to fill the Senate seat in November. Ms. Loeffler would serve out the final year of Mr. Isakson’s term, allowing her to run for the seat as an incumbent.

Brian Robinson, a communications consultant who previously worked for Nathan Deal, the state’s former Republican governor, noted that Mr. Kemp, who ran as a shotgun-brandishing Trumpist candidate in 2018, struggled to win over such women in his narrow victory last year over Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate.

“The governor obviously thinks that having a metro Atlanta woman will help bring back some of those college-educated white women we lost in 2018 in big numbers,” Mr. Robinson said. “So strategically, he’s trying to build a coalition that can turn out the Trump-slash-Kemp base while bringing back some of the folks we’ve lost.”

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Mr. Trump had met with Mr. Kemp and Ms. Loeffler in a brief, “tense” meeting on Nov. 24 at the White House, in which Mr. Trump said that Mr. Kemp would be taking a risk by appointing Ms. Loeffler.

Mr. Trump, the newspaper said, prefers Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and a reliable ally of the president who would ostensibly continue to support him if appointed to the Senate, which would vote on whether to remove the president from office if he were impeached by the House.


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