GOP complains that Georgia governor's Senate pick is not right-wing enough

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp plans to appoint Kelly Loeffler to an open Senate seat.

Anti-abortion leaders and conservative activists are panning Kelly Loeffler, the woman Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) plans to appoint to fill a vacant Senate seat. But contrary to their claims that she will be a Republican in name only, her history of political contributions suggest otherwise.

Loeffler, the CEO of Bakkt, a cryptocurrency company based in Atlanta, was one of hundreds of applicants hoping to replace retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson's (R-GA) seat when he resigns at the end of the year due to health reasons. Though Donald Trump reportedly pressured Kemp to select a different applicant, fierce Trump defender Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), Georgia law gives its governor the power to unilaterally fill Senate vacancies.

Right-wingers including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), radio shock jock Mark Levin, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, and anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List head Marjorie Dannenfelser have criticized Loeffler's conservative credentials. Some have called her a "RINO," Republican in name only, and suggested she will be loyal to occasional Trump critic Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT).

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Aside from the $750,000 Loeffler gave to support Romney's 2012 presidential run, a campaign that Trump also vocally supported, their criticisms include the fact that she serves on the board of Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation and co-owns the Atlanta WNBA franchise. Grady, a prominent public hospital in Atlanta, offers a full range of reproductive health services including abortion and the Atlanta Dream apparently once donated a portion of ticket sales to benefit Planned Parenthood.

March for Life Action president Tom McClusky additionally complained that Loeffler "has donated thousands of dollars to liberal and pro-abortion Democrats."

Kemp dismissed these criticisms of Loeffler as "absurd" on Wednesday. "The idea that I would appoint someone to the U.S. Senate that is NOT pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, pro-freedom, and 100% supportive of our President (and his plan to Keep America Great) is ridiculous," he said.

And a review of Loeffler's donations suggests she is a staunch Republican. She made a handful donations to federal Democrats — $2,000 to Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan in 2011 was the most recent — but the vast bulk of her money went to Republicans and GOP party committees. She sent $75,000 to the Trump-controlled Republican National Committee in February and gave $101,700 to the National Republican Congressional Committee last March (the legal limit for 2018). Her donations to Democrats made up a tiny fraction of her totals — far less than Trump's own bipartisan giving.

She also donated to some of the most conservative members of the Republican Party. Recipients of her donations included Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Phil Gingrey (R-GA), and Tom Price (R-GA), who would later serve as Trump's first secretary of Health and Human Services. She also made donations to former Govs. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Nikki Haley (R-SC). (Haley also who served as Trump's U.N. ambassador.)

Isakson announced in August that he will step down at the end of the year, citing health problems. Whoever Kemp appoints will get to serve at least until next November. A special election held on Election Day of 2020 will determine who gets to serve the final two years of Isakson's unexpired term.

Much of the GOP's minimal diversity in the Senate has come through appointments: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the lone black Republican in the body, was appointed in 2012, and three of the eight Republican women —Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — were also appointed by the governors of their states.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.