Over 500 people applied for retiring Senator Johnny Isakson’s seat, in a very public process conducted by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. Kemp has excellent personal skills, and a keen ear for hearing what’s important to Georgia voters.
At the end of the process, two main contenders have emerged, barring some dark-horse. President Trump’s pick is Rep. Doug Collins, representing Georgia’s 9th Congressional District, also known as Trump Country. At 78%, more voters went for Trump in Collins’ northeast Georgia district than any other in the state.
It appears that Gov. Kemp’s pick is businesswoman and WNBA team owner Kelly Loeffler. President Trump should listen to Kemp.
I get that Trump wants someone in his corner. Certainly, Collins is smart (he can think circles round Rep. Adam Schiff, and outmaneuvered Speaker Nancy Pelosi too). Collins is a Trump guy without being Trumpy, if that makes sense. To me that means he’s not a panderer like failed candidate Michael Williams, or a brute like Rep. Greg Gianforte, who is now running for governor of Montana. I have no problem with Doug Collins sitting in Isakson’s seat.
But I’m not listening to all of Georgia’s political currents. Kemp is, and he understands putting a full-on-Trump guy into the 2020 special election and the 2022 general election–with himself on the ballot–is fraught with danger. I haven’t talked with the governor about this–only his closest advisors are “in” on the decision–but I believe Kemp has nothing against Doug Collins.
But now Trump is digging in his heels.
President Trump quietly met Sunday in the White House with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and the governor’s preferred pick to fill the state’s Senate seat, Atlanta businesswoman Kelly Loeffler.
But the private huddle turned tense and ended quickly, according to people familiar with the meeting. Mr. Trump has preferred Rep. Doug Collins, a Republican who has vocally defended the president during the impeachment process, and he told Mr. Kemp that he would be taking a risk by appointing the politically untested Ms. Loeffler. At one point Mr. Trump questioned why they were holding the meeting if Mr. Kemp had made his decision.Georgia Governor, Trump Appear at Odds Over Senate Pick, Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2019
This is typical passive-aggressive Trump behavior: if you’re not going to do what I want, then I’m going to endlessly troll you.
It puts Kemp in a very odd position. A president he generally supports could actively campaign against the Senator he appointed, in favor of another politician the governor has nothing against, forcing everyone to take sides against each other. This is nothing but premeditated murder against the Georgia GOP.
If Trump wins a second term, he could end up subverting Kemp’s chances at picking up his own second term, with Stacey Abrams sitting in the wings like a vulture, hoarding a pile of grifted cash.
I don’t know a whole lot about Loeffler, but I trust Kemp to vet someone in terms of their positions on abortion, reining in government spending, religious freedom, and gun rights. It would make no sense at all to spend all this time vetting candidates in a public application process just to appoint someone who won’t resonate with Georgia voters. And Kemp’s smarter than that.
The reason Kemp went to Washington was to keep the Georgia GOP from publicly fracturing. Now that’s all out in public too. The best course for President Trump would be to acknowledge that Kemp knows best here, and wish whatever person he appoints–even Loeffler–the best.
I hope the president will listen and agree.