Precious time ticks away as Gov. Brian Kemp mulls his choice to replace GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retires on Dec. 31st. Last week was a drama, with U.S. Rep. Doug Collins – worried that the governor might be favoring businesswoman Kelly Loeffler or some other Republican for the post— surprisingly announced he’d consider running in the November 2020 “jungle primary” no matter what.

Loeffler’s last-minute application for consideration by Kemp was a surprise, especially to Collins (openly favored by President Donald Trump). Yet if Collins felt that his announcement would help him with Kemp, it may be backfiring. Loeffler still appears to be under serious consideration, but insiders now wonder if a new name will emerge.

Whoever the governor appoints, though, it is generally agreed that he or she must be compatible on major policy issues with the president and Georgia’s other U.S. senator, David Perdue.

Collins has an excellent conservative voting record and has been an effective Trump advocate in his position on the House Judiciary Committee. He also represents a Gainesville-based district that is a heavy generator of GOP votes in any statewide election. Loeffler, on the other hand, is obviously a high-profile female Republican who could immediately self-fund a campaign and who also holds conservative views. Unfortunately for her, as this process drags on, she is being attacked by Collins allies and a few Tea Party activists as being “too moderate.”

In the meantime, more is being learned about the prominent businesswoman, philanthropist and co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. She happens to be married to Sandy Springs-based Intercontinental Exchange CEO Jeff Sprecher. And it was in 2013 that the couple celebrated ICE’s $11 billion acquisition of the New York Stock Exchange, the symbol of American capitalism.

Loeffler grew up in humble beginnings. The husband and wife team was named by our sister publication, James magazine, as its 2015 “Georgians of the Year.” In a James interview with this writer that year, Loeffler provided a glimpse of her background:

“I grew up on a farm in Illinois listening to the crop prices on the radio, such as corn and soybeans, and that made me interested in the financial markets. That set me on a path to learning more about international business. My parents are farmers and entrepreneurs, having started a trucking company when I was born, and they run the business together still to this day. I started working as I went through school, so I think I’ve always had a strong work ethic in my blood. I got my undergraduate degree in business administration and a master’s degree in international finance and marketing, as well as my CFA. I then grew through a series of finance roles over time. I was attracted to ICE as a startup because it offered an opportunity to be a part of something that I believed could be truly ground-breaking. Initially, I was brought in to run investor relations and to help the company go public; but I ended up also running marketing, public relations and other areas of the business given the lean, entrepreneurial nature of the company.”

For several months in 2013 she considered running for the U.S. Senate the next year. But she eventually decided to stay with ICE to further assist in its amazing revenue and earnings growth. During that time of consideration, though, she expressed a wide spectrum of conservative views ranging from the repeal of Obamacare and control of illegal immigration to a pro-life position.

But that was then, and this is now. As the governor continues to bide his time in making an appointment, opponents of Collins and Loeffler are attacking one another– especially on social media. If the governor is going to maintain Republican unity going into 2020, when the president and Perdue are also running for re-election, he must make up his mind soon. Could it be Collins? Loeffler? Or an as-yet-unknown Republican?

Phil Kent is the CEO of InsiderAdvantage Georgia and James Magazine.


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