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Kemp picks GOP donor Kelly Loeffler to fill Georgia Senate seat, defying Trump

Brian Kemp speaks with a "kemp for governor" sign in the background.
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Wednesday that he has selected Republican donor and businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to fill the soon-to-be vacant U.S. Senate seat of Johnny Isakson.

Why it matters: In appointing Loeffler, Kemp is defying pressure from President Trump and other GOP leaders who have backed Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), a staunch ally of the president who would be a lock to vote against removal in the event of an impeachment trial in the Senate.

  • The decision is likely to prompt backlash from some hardline conservatives, who have criticized Loeffler for donating to establishment Republicans like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
  • Collins had previously signaled that he may pursue a primary against Loeffler in 2020 if he was not selected for the position.
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), another close Trump ally, warned on Twitter that Kemp himself may face a primary from a Trump-backed candidate as a result of the pick: "It’s not the establishment you are screwing with your donor-induced stubbornness. You are hurting President Trump. You know this because he told you.”

The backdrop: Trump told Kemp and Loeffler in a meeting last month that he wasn't sure how his supporters would respond to the choice and raised concerns about Loeffler's experience, according to Politico. Trump said during a tense exchange that he preferred Collins for the position and questioned why they were holding the meeting if Kemp had already made a decision, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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