(CN) – Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is expected Wednesday to pick a wealthy businesswoman to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat, upsetting some conservative allies of President Donald Trump.
Three-term Republican Senator Johnny Isakson announced in August his plan to retire by the end of this year after last winning reelection in 2016.
“After much prayer and consultation with my family and doctors, I have made the very tough decision to leave the U.S. Senate at the end of 2019. It has been the honor of a lifetime serving the state of Georgia. This decision pains me greatly, but I know it is the right thing to do,” the 74-year-old said in a tweet announcing his retirement amid a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
First reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as the governor’s pick for the vacant seat effective Jan. 1, conservative donor and financial services executive Kelly Loeffler faces scrutiny from GOP leaders and will have to defend her seat next November against other potential Republican candidates like Congressman Doug Collins.
As Republicans attempt to maintain control of the Senate next year, many party leaders are said to have pushed Kemp to appoint Collins to the Senate seat because of his outspoken support of President Trump.
An anonymous source told the Associated Press that Trump clearly preferred Collins for the seat but has accepted the Loeffler pick.
Both of Georgia’s GOP-held Senate seats will be on the ballot alongside Trump in 2020. Isakson’s term would have lasted through 2022 but a special election will be held to decide who fills the seat for the last two years.
Loeffler, who has no political experience, is a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream professional woman’s basketball franchise and the CEO of a Bitcoin-based subsidary of Intercontinental Exchange Inc., a financial services firm.
If she holds onto the Senate seat in 2020, it would make her the first woman elected to the Senate from the Peach State.
Loeffler could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
In September, Kemp opened an online application process for Isakson’s Senate seat and asked everyone from lawmakers to ordinary Georgians to apply.
Democrat Matt Lieberman, the son of former U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, is among the Democrats who have announced a bid for the seat.
Republicans including former Congressman Jack Kingston, state House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price also applied, in addition to Collins.
Kemp’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.