Georgia Senate: Loeffler taps key Trump ally to top campaign post

Credit: Jacquelyn Martin

Credit: Jacquelyn Martin

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is stocking her campaign with conservatives as she keeps one eye on a bitter November contest against a formidable Democrat and another on a possible challenge from a prominent Republican lawmaker.

Loeffler's campaign manager will be Billy Kirkland, a veteran Georgia operative and former White House aide who was once a top strategist to Vice President Mike Pence. Kirkland was the Trump campaign's senior adviser in Georgia in 2016, and two years prior ran U.S. Sen. David Perdue's bid for office.

Loeffler also hired Taylor Brown, a veteran of Clay Tippins’ gubernatorial bid, as her deputy campaign manager and Stephen Lawson as her communications director. Lawson is a veteran of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2018 campaign for governor, which relied heavily on Trump’s support.

Her press secretary is Caitlin O’Dea, who was the manager for state Rep. Houston Gaines’ 2018 campaign and also worked for former Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach, the first Republican elected to lead the coastal city in decades.

The Republican is racing to gear up her campaign staff ahead of her first electoral test. Gov. Brian Kemp tapped the wealthy financial executive in December to fill retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat, and she faces a November vote to fill out the remaining two years of his term.

That free-for-all vote will feature candidates from all parties on the same ballot – with no primary to filter nominees. Leading Georgia Democrats hope partisans unify behind the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is expected to soon enter the race, though several other contenders have announced.

But she could also face a stiff challenge on her right flank from U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a four-term lawmaker from Gainesville who has honed his reputation as one of President Donald Trump’s most ardent defenders.

Loeffler, meanwhile, has embarked on a statewide tour to meet grassroots activists – many of whom hadn't heard of her before she emerged as Kemp's favorite – and debuted a pro-Trump television ad to introduce herself to voters. She's pledged to spend at least $20 million of her own money on her bid.