Kelly Loeffler is chief executive of Bakkt, a subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange. In 2011, she bought a stake in the WNBA's Atlanta Dream. Loeffler supported Mitt Romney for president in 2012. She considered running for U.S. senate in 2014 in Georgia. Loeffler is also a supporter of President Donald Trump.

Torpy at Large: Riding shotgun in Kemp’s drive for Georgia’s suburbs

The world has been turned upside down. A Republican governor is ducking Sean Hannity.

Hannity, a one-time Atlanta resident and young radio host here, just wants to get a word in with Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp. Instead, our Gov keeps avoiding Seanie Boy’s microphone.

Normally, all red-blooded Republican pols dream that Fox News’ multiplatform media star will acknowledge their presence and give them a little love. But Kemp, who got elected calling himself a “politically incorrect conservative,” has been hiding from the Crown Prince of politically incorrect conservatism.

On his website, Hannity chided Kemp for rebuking President Donald Trump by “planning to appoint centrist businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to a Senate seat vacated by three-term incumbent Johnny Isakson.”

Later, on the radio, he dumped on Kemp’s non-response, saying, “It sounds like they’re mad and angry that they’re getting called out for picking somebody that’s a RINO. They’re just mad that we’re trying to get to the bottom of it before I think he makes a big mistake.”

Even later, Sean went to the TV studios, had makeup applied to his canned-ham-sized noggin and continued the taunting.

But enough of Hannity’s questions. I have some comments and queries of my own:

How dare Kemp not return Sean Hannity’s calls! Does the governor know whom he’s ignoring!?! And does he want to work in this town again?!?

Kemp apparently is either purposely laying low or is just really busy. In fact, he spent half an hour Tuesday afternoon lighting a Christmas tree at the state Capitol. Our governor knows very well there’s a war on Christmas, so he’s there at the front lines doing the people’s business.

Gov. Brian Kemp sits with first lady Marty Kemp and youngest daughter Amy Porter during the annual State Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony with a 25-foot Eastern Red Cedar from Cobb County at the Georgia Capitol on Dec. 3, 2019. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

A couple of weeks ago, Loeffler dropped her name in the long-running Senate Sweepstakes through which Kemp held an open audition to replace the retiring Isakson.

Loeffler was a late-comer among the 500-plus entries and said she was Senatorial Timber because she grew up on a farm, worked hard and is a “political outsider.” It also helps that Loeffler — an MBA who heads a Bitcoin trading firm, co-owns a WNBA team and is married to a really rich guy — has given gobs of money to the GOP.

Kelly Loeffler grew up on a large family farm in central Illinois and credits the work ethic she learned there with helping her succeed on Wall Street and beyond. She is the co-owner of the Atlanta Dream WNBA franchise. (credit: Kelly Loeffler family photo)
Photo: Kelly Loeffler family photo

Interestingly, if appointed to the U.S. Senate, she’d join David Perdue, another Georgia multimillionaire who came to office in 2014 as a political neophyte wearing a jean jacket and calling himself an outsider.

But what really helps Loeffler is that she will be a relative rarity — a Republican elected official in Georgia who is female.

Earlier this year, after the Republican-dominated Legislature passed a law making it more difficult to get abortions, state Sen. Renee Unterman posed for a picture with 33 fellow Republican state senators who won the day voting 34-18 along party lines. All were white dudes. The state Senate did have one other Republican woman, but she was at a funeral that day.

In all, just 12 percent of the 140 Republican state legislators in Georgia are women, the same percentage as in 1997. At that rate, in 2041 the percentage of Republican legislators who are women will be … (working on my calculator here) … 12 percent!

Conversely, more than half of the Democrats in the Legislature are women.

Kelly Loeffler grew up on a large family farm in central Illinois and credits the work ethic she learned there with helping her succeed on Wall Street and beyond. (credit: Kelly Loeffler family photo)
Photo: Kelly Loeffler family photo

Brian Kemp knows the score. He has seen Atlanta’s north suburbs grow blue. It turns out that educated white suburban women are turned off by Trump. Republicans witnessed it in last year’s election when Democrats picked up 13 seats, mostly in Atlanta’s northern ‘burbs.

Former GOP state Sen. Fran Millar, from the once solidly Republican suburb Dunwoody, was trounced in a re-election bid last fall. He said Hannity and others railing at Kemp should put a sock in it.

“As a casualty of the (Trump) backlash, the Republicans have to broaden their suburban base, especially with women,” Millar said. “This is Gov. Brian Kemp’s choice, not Donald Trump’s.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp greets President Donald Trump at Dobbins Air Force Base on Nov. 8, 2019, in Marietta. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Kemp is no doubt calculating that Loeffler would have a better chance of winning a special election next year compared to U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a Republican bulldog from Gainesville who has been one of Trump’s top defenders in the impeachment proceedings.

However, that might not be a great thing next year when tons of voters turn out in the presidential election. Kemp is not just hoping Loeffler will win next year in a special election. Kemp and other Republicans want to make sure they hold on to the state House — it’s now 105-75, Republican — because redistricting is right around the corner and they want to keep their mitts on the gerrymandering levers.

I called former state Sen. David Shafer, chair of the Georgia GOP, who is now in a tight spot with his fellow Republicans turning on each other. About all he was willing to say was, “I have confidence in Gov. Kemp and look forward to learning more about his nominee.”

It is interesting that Shafer, who’s been around for decades, doesn’t know Loeffler. But these days that’s good. She’s a blank slate, a new product to be sold to the voting public.

Nikema Williams, chairperson of the Democratic Party of Georgia, speaks against President Donald Trump ahead of his visit to Atlanta on Nov. 8, 2019. (Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com)
Photo: Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

No matter. State Sen. Nikema Williams, the new head of Georgia’s Democratic Party, isn’t buying what Loeffler or Kemp are selling.

I asked about Kemp’s calculations in picking Loeffler, and Williams said, “As a black woman, I can’t begin to presume what Brian Kemp thinks; he looks at life through a different lens.”

But she added, “We will not be fooled. Their candidates will bring flawed proposals.”

So, what she is saying is Kelly Loeffler is pretty much like Doug Collins who is pretty much like the outgoing Johnny Isakson.

I wish someone would tell that to Sean Hannity. The poor fellow’s head might not explode.

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