Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler cheers for the team during 2nd half action in the home opener at Philips Arena in Atlanta on Friday, May 25, 2012. Atlanta Dream won 100 - 74 over the New York Liberty. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com
Photo: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Georgia Senate: A high-profile executive raises her hand for Isakson’s job 

The head of a financial services firm who co-owns Atlanta’s WNBA franchise applied Monday for Georgia’s U.S. Senate job, becoming the highest-profile business executive to seek Gov. Brian Kemp’s appointment for the seat.

Kelly Loeffler seems certain to be a top-tier contender for the position held by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is retiring at year’s end because of health reasons. More than 500 people have submitted resumes ahead of a Monday deadline.  

A Republican mega-donor, Loeffler can self-finance a Senate campaign that’s expected to shatter fundraising records. She could also potentially help the GOP appeal to suburban women who have fled the party.

“From working on the family farm to creating jobs and opportunity in the business world, I have been blessed to live the American Dream,” she wrote in her application. “I am offering myself to serve hardworking Georgians as a political outsider in the United States Senate to protect that dream for everyone.”

Loeffler has considered bids for public office before, including a 2014 run for the open Senate seat eventually won by Republican David Perdue. At the time, her allies said her company’s purchase of the New York Stock Exchange prompted her to decide against running. 

Loeffler served as a senior executive with that company, Intercontinental Exchange, and helped it woo Wall Street investors and complete the purchase of the stock exchange. 

She stepped down last year to serve as chief executive of Bakkt, a financial services firm that’s a subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange.

Loeffler grew up weeding soybean fields on her family farm in Bloomington, Ill. and moved to Atlanta in 2002 after stints in five cities to become the chief of investor relations for ICE, which was then an energy trading platform. 

She fell in love with the company’s CEO, Jeff Sprecher, after joining the firm and the two married in 2004. Sprecher, also a force in Georgia GOP politics, later said he was a “consummate bachelor who was never going to get married, but she really knocked me off my feet.”

Loeffler plunged into conservative politics in more recent years, including a $750,000 donation to the super PAC backing Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012. Her role as co-owner of the Atlanta Dream has also helped elevate her public profile.

“I circled back to the roots that combined my passions in life,” said Loeffler, who played basketball in her youth, of the 2011 decision to buy a stake in the team. “I’m glad I took the risk I did for that full circle.”

If appointed, Loeffler would be the second woman U.S. senator in Georgia history. Rebecca Latimer Felton was tapped to the Senate for one day in 1922 after the death of Tom Watson, making her the first woman in the nation to serve in the chamber. 

Loeffler’s stance on many of Georgia’s biggest political debates, and her degree of support for President Donald Trump, is not yet known. But in a letter affixed to her resume, she said she supports Trump’s agenda and invoked his campaign slogan.

“If chosen, I will stand with President Trump, Senator David Perdue, and you to Keep America Great,” she wrote. “Together, we will grow jobs, strengthen the border, shutdown drug cartels and human traffickers, lower healthcare costs, and protect our national interests – at home and abroad.”

MoreInside the slow start in the race for Isakson’s seat 

MoreUS Senate: Who has applied for Johnny Isakson's Georgia seat 

On the short list?

Whoever Kemp picks would stand for election in November 2020 to fill out the remaining two years of Isakson’s term – and be expected to run again in 2022, when Kemp will seek a second term.

A rush of resumes came in shortly after Gov. Brian Kemp, left, announced that he would be accepting applications to fill the U.S. Senate seat that Johnny Isakson will vacate at the end of the year. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

There’s also a chance of a January 2021 runoff if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, a distinct possibility in a “jungle” special election when multiple contenders from all parties are on the same ballot.

Democrats are likely waiting for Kemp to make his decision before rallying behind their own candidate for the seat. 

No high-profile politician has yet jumped in the race, though Matt Lieberman, the son of former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, announced his Senate campaign last month without support from the party establishment. 

Loeffler is among a crowd of potential candidates that includes current and former officeholders, business executivesa U.S. ambassador, decorated military veterans and radio commentators. A Democratic state legislator has even applied

And since Kemp announced the deadline last week, at least two other top contenders have formally asked to be considered: Robyn Crittenden, who briefly succeeded Kemp as secretary of state and runs the state’s largest agency; and Allen Poole, a former county commissioner and Kemp deputy. 

Aside from Crittenden, Loeffler and Poole, other top potential contenders are U.S. Rep. Doug Collinsstate Rep. Jan Jones, the No. 2 Republican in the Georgia House; Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton and Jackie Gingrich Cushman, an author and fiscal analyst who is the daughter of the former House speaker. 

Here is Loeffler’s entire letter:

I respectfully submit for your consideration this application to serve as the next United States Senator from the great state of Georgia. 

I have long considered how I can give back to our country through public service. Please find attached a summary of my business and life experience that I believe qualifies me to serve effectively in this important position. 

From working on the family farm to creating jobs and opportunity in the business world, I have been blessed to live the American Dream. I am offering myself to serve hardworking Georgians as a political outsider in the United States Senate to protect that dream for everyone. 

It is important – now more than ever before – to have leaders with significant life and business experience outside of politics representing Georgia families in Washington, D.C. Politicians with radical agendas threaten to undermine and destroy all that has made this country the shining beacon of liberty and opportunity in the world. If selected, I will be a new, common sense voice for hardworking Georgians and all Americans who believe in freedom, hard work, and opportunity for all.

If chosen, I will stand with President Trump, Senator David Perdue, and you to Keep America Great. Together, we will grow jobs, strengthen the border, shutdown drug cartels and human traffickers, lower healthcare costs, and protect our national interests – at home and abroad.

I will champion our farmers and Georgia’s oldest and largest industry – agriculture. I will protect our military installations and the communities they support. Most importantly, I will be a steadfast partner with you to put hardworking Georgians – not the status quo or the special interests – first.

Governor, thank you for your service and all you are doing to keep our state safe and strong. I humbly ask for the opportunity to serve and build on the efforts to move our great state and country forward. 

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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