Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday appointed Atlanta businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to take over the seat of retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Kemp, a Republican, had been pressed by President Donald Trump to appoint Rep. Doug Collins, CNN previously reported, but selected Loeffler in a rare act of defiance against Trump by a member of his own party.
Isakson is retiring on December 31 due to health concerns.
An executive at a commodities trading firm in Atlanta and the co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, Loeffler, 49, had considered running for Senate in 2014. During Wednesday’s announcement, Loeffler, a prominent Republican donor, introduced herself as “a lifelong conservative. Pro-Second Amendment. Pro-military. Pro-wall. And pro-Trump.”
She confirmed Wednesday that she will be running to retain her seat in November.
Kemp rallied behind his pick during his announcement, comparing Loeffler to Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and senior adviser, as “a savvy businesswoman,” and describing her a “political outsider” who “knows that we need to drain the swamp.”
Though Trump wanted the governor to pick Collins for the seat, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and fierce defender of the President, indicated his support for Loeffler on Tuesday, saying she would be a “terrific” choice for the seat. The powerful National Republican Senatorial Committee also plans to support her in next year’s election, a source familiar with the matter has told CNN.
The Democratic Party of Georgia blasted Kemp’s decision to pick Loeffler on Wednesday, with its chairwoman, Nikema Williams, saying in a statement that Loeffler “has already made it clear that she will not be an independent voice for our state, and instead will fall in line with Donald Trump” and other Republicans.
“Today’s appointment showcases exactly where Brian Kemp’s and Georgia Republicans’ priorities lie: with their own special interests, instead of the people of Georgia,” Williams said.