By Dave Williams / Bureau Chief – Capitol Beat News Service
ATLANTA – With the two words “I do,” Kelly Loeffler became Georgia’s new U.S. senator Monday.
Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to Loeffler during a brief late-afternoon ceremony inside the Senate chambers.
Republican Loeffler, an Atlanta businesswoman and political newcomer, was Gov. Brian Kemp’s choice to succeed former Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired at the end of last year due to health concerns.
Loeffler emerged from a competition of more than 500 hopefuls who responded when the governor posted the job opening online.
Isakson, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, announced in September he would be leaving office at the end of December, halfway through his third term in the Senate.
High-profile Republicans who applied for the opening included U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville; former Congressman Tom Price, who also served as secretary of health and human services during the first year of the of President Donald Trump’s administration; state Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, who serves as House speaker pro tempore; Tim Echols, a member of the Georgia Public Service Commission, and Georgia Chief Justice Harold Melton.
Trump let it be known that he preferred Collins, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and a strong defender of the president.
But Kemp chose Loeffler instead in a move widely seen as a bid to increase diversity within Georgia Republican ranks.
Until her appointment to the Senate, Loeffler was CEO of Atlanta-based Bakkt, a Bitcoin-focused subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange Inc., another Atlanta company run by her husband, Jeff Sprecher. She also is co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.
Loeffler, who is currently serving in the Senate on an interim basis, has said she will run in November to complete Isakson’s unexpired term.
She is certain to draw Democratic challengers, and Collins has said he is considering seeking the seat as well.