- The Washington Times - Monday, December 2, 2019

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to appoint businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to the Senate over the objections of pro-life and conservative grassroots groups.

Ms. Loeffler is a political donor, co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, and CEO of Bakkt, a subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange Inc. Her affiliation with the WNBA and her position on the board of directors at Grady Memorial Hospital, which provides abortions, rankles pro-life advocates and conservative activists who prefer any better-known conservative to Ms. Loeffler.

Mr. Kemp is set to announce Ms. Loeffler’s nomination to replace retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson Wednesday morning, as first reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. President Trump reportedly prefers Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee that will hold impeachment hearings this week.

After word spread that Mr. Kemp and Ms. Loeffler met with Mr. Trump last month and did not see eye to eye, pro-life groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List, March for Life Action and Concerned Women for America mobilized to try to put the kibosh on Ms. Loeffler’s chances.

The conservative opposition doesn’t support any single alternative to Ms. Loeffler, who they view as deficient in conservative credentials and lacking in pro-life commitment. Instead, they are united in their animosity for Ms. Loeffler.

Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance pointed to Ms. Loeffler’s affiliation with the WNBA, an organization that has donated to Planned Parenthood, and Ms. Loeffler’s work with Grady Memorial Hospital as indicative that she is not a full-fledged conservative.

Ms. Nance told The Washington Times her primary concern about Ms. Loeffler centers around how Ms. Loeffler would approach judicial nominations and any future Supreme Court vacancy, which are processed by the Senate.

“Our issue is that Kelly Loeffler’s record does not give us confidence that she will be firm on the life issue,” Ms. Nance said. “We’re just asking the governor to not be naive. Brian Kemp is pro-life — I don’t doubt his sincerity, I just think he’s wrong on this. And if we’re right and he’s wrong, then this is going to be on his conscience for the rest of his life.”

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser echoed Ms. Nance’s concerns and said in a statement that Ms. Loeffler’s position with Grady Memorial Hospital should “disqualify” her from the Senate seat.

March for Life Action President Tom McClusky labeled Ms. Loeffler’s prospective selection “a huge setback” in a statement addressing his group’s concerns with Ms. Loeffler.

Not all conservatives are united against Ms. Loeffler, however.

Conservative radio host Erick Erickson wrote Monday that selecting Ms. Loeffler was a “risk” but he said his fellow conservatives should be willing to roll the dice.

“That parts of the conservative movement are out to destroy Loeffler without knowing anything about her says a lot about the movement,” Mr. Erickson wrote for the Resurgent. “It has been burned repeatedly by those it rallied around. But also, the movement is sometimes not willing to take leaps of faith with trusted allies when the movement should. This is one of those times to have a leap of faith with a trusted ally and perhaps give her a chance.”

Mr. Kemp’s decision to discount Mr. Trump’s advice and ignore the conservative groups’ concerns looks to be a calculated risk by the governor, who narrowly defeated Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams last year. With Ms. Abrams’ talking up her chances as a prospective vice presidential nominee for the Democratic Party in 2020, Mr. Kemp’s decision could be aimed at preserving the Senate seat for the long haul.

The divide over Ms. Loeffler could be an early test of how much muscle the conservative grassroots will have in 2020. With Republicans on defense in key Senate races and Mr. Trump at the top of the ticket, Mr. Kemp’s decision may reflect the inclination of GOP power-brokers nationwide in the coming year.

But some of Mr. Trump’s allies have warned Mr. Kemp that he is getting ahead of himself by selecting anyone who Mr. Trump does not approve.

“If you substitute your judgment for the President’s, maybe you need a primary in 2022,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, tweeted at Mr. Kemp on Friday. “Let’s see if you can win one w/o Trump.”

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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