Tags: 2020 Elections | Donald Trump | brian kemp | kelly loeffler | doug collins | trump | georgia

Will Georgia Senate Race Be Trump vs. Gov. Kemp by Proxy?

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp greets President Donald Trump
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp greets President Donald Trump. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

By Thursday, 05 December 2019 06:19 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Hours after Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp appointed — as expected — multimillionaire Kelly Loeffler on Wednesday to fill a soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat, the speculation began among Peach State Republicans: would Loeffler, who vowed to spend $20 million of her own wealth in next year's special election, be facing the conservative congressman who desperately wanted the appointment?

Rep. Doug Collins, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and a close ally of President Donald Trump, is now sending every signal he can that he wants to run after failing to secure appointment to the seat (which will officially become vacant Jan. 1 after ailing Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson resigns).

Collins, a no-holds-barred conservative who is emerging as one of the president's chief defenders in the impeachment process, said as much on Sean Hannity's Fox News program the night before Loeffler was named. President Trump reportedly lobbied Kemp on Collins' behalf for the appointment.

"A main problem Loeffler currently has is that many activists within the statewide Republican base don't know her or her politics," Phil Kent, former editorial page editor of the Augusta Chronicle, told Newsmax. "She's an outsider who has never run for or held public office."

Kent added that Loeffler, CEO of the bitcoin trading firm Bakkt, could count on various endorsements from Republican officials who support Gov. Kemp's choice.

Should Collins run, it is unclear at this point if he will have the president's full support in a primary with the appointed Sen. Loeffler. Trump is known to be fiercely loyal to his friends, but the support of a challenger to a sitting senator may be the proverbial "bridge too far."

There is precedent in Georgia for someone running for the Senate because he felt the appointment should be his. The late Democratic Gov. Ernest Vandiver told this reporter how then-Gov. Jimmy Carter had given him every indication he would be appointed to the Senate in 1971 if ailing incumbent Richard B. Russell (whose niece Betty was Vandiver's wife) should die.

Russell did die in 1971, but Carter appointed not Vandiver but David Gambrell, a close friend and president of the Georgia Bar Association, to his Senate seat. A year later, an angry Vandiver ran for the seat he felt should be his — but both he and Gambrell were defeated in the Democratic primary by Sam Nunn, who went on to serve four terms in the Senate and became chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

A Collins vs. Loeffler primary with the involvement of Trump (either up front or behind the scenes) and Kemp would be lively, expensive, and divisive. Some observers say it might be just the opportunity a resurgent Democratic Party in Georgia needs.

Among the Democrats mentioned to run for Isakson's seat is the heir to one of Georgia's most famous names: former State Sen. Jason Carter, the 2014 gubernatorial nominee and the oldest of Jimmy Carter's grandchildren.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Hours after Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp appointed - as expected - multimillionairess Kelly Loeffler on Wednesday to fill a soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat, 2020 speculation was rampant.
brian kemp, kelly loeffler, doug collins, trump, georgia, carter
Thursday, 05 December 2019 06:19 AM
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