Appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s loss at the hands of Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) on Tuesday brings to an end one of the most ignominious Senate terms in modern memory.
Yes, there have been shorter tenures. (Georgia Democratic Sen. Rebecca Latimer Felton served for only a single day!) And, yes, plenty of other appointed senators have lost when they ran for election in their own right. (Like Arizona’s Martha McSally, who lost in November.) But few – if any – appointed senators have so tarnished their personal reputation as Loeffler did in the year she spent in the world’s greatest deliberative body.
Consider Loeffler’s reputation when Gov. Brian Kemp appointed her to the seat vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) in late 2019: A prominent (and wealthy) businesswoman and a moderate Republican who Kemp clearly hoped would bolster his own political standing in the critical Atlanta suburbs heading into his 2022 reelection race.
In her earliest days in the Senate, Loeffler tried to position herself as just that: A successful businesswoman bringing some much-needed outsider perspective to Washington. In an ad she ran soon after being appointed, Loeffler touted her mantra “hard work and results really matter.”
That plan appeared to go out the window in the spring of 2020, when Loeffler (and her husband) found themselves in the middle of a massive controversy regarding a series of stock sales just before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the American economy.
“Loeffler and her husband sold 27 stocks between January 24 and February 14 at a value of $1.28 million and $3.1 million, according to Senate financial disclosure records. They also purchased three stocks for between $450,000 to $1 million, including shares in Citrix, a software company used for teleconferencing that’s one of the few that’s gained value amid the coronavirus outbreak. Citrix’s stock was $122.03 on February 14, the day it was purchased, and closed at $125.31 on Thursday.”
Amid questions of whether her position in the Senate gave her advance notice of the coming catastrophe, Loeffler told Fox News at the time that she was “not involved in the decisions around buying and selling” of her stocks. While she continued to insist that she had done nothing wrong, Loeffler announced in April that she and her husband were selling off all of their individual stocks.
That episode seemed to mark a clear turning point in how Loeffler positioned herself politically. As questions were raised about the stock trades, Loeffler turned to accusations of socialism, of all things, to defend herself. This comes from a Fox News interview in mid-April:
“This was a political attack designed to take away from the issue at hand. And to use this outbreak to play politics. We have addressed this and taken extraordinary measures to make sure that we can’t be attacked for our success. This gets at the very heart of why I came to Washington, to defend free enterprise, to defend capitalism. This is a socialist attack.”
It only went downhill from there, as Loeffler tacked hard to the Trump right seeking to fend off Rep. Doug Collins, who jumped into the special election race in early 2020. (Collins was President Donald Trump’s preferred pick to replace Isakson but Kemp went with Loeffler for the political reasons I mentioned above.)
* Loeffler was quoted as saying there were “no” issues on which she and Trump disagreed. Asked whether that included Trump’s misogynistic comments about women captured on an “Access Hollywood” tape, she said: “I’m not familiar with that.” Ha!
* Loeffler ran a much-mocked TV ad in which she claimed to be “more conservative than Attila the Hun.” (Yes, this really happened.)
* Loeffler, a co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, loudly objected to the league’s decision to honor the “Black Lives Matter” movement. “@WNBA should stand for and unite around the American Flag — not divisive political movements like BLM that unapologetically seek to defund the police,” she tweeted. In response, the Dream team (ahem) sported “Vote Warnock” T-shirts before games in support of Loeffler’s opponent (and the now senator-elect).
All in all, Loeffler not only ran a remarkably bad campaign, but she also seemed to abandon the entire reason she was chosen in the first place. A moderate Atlanta businesswoman ran like a Trump conservative – and lost.
Stuart Stevens, a longtime Republican political consultant and a never-Trumper, put it best and bluntly.
“As someone who in past years has had to listen to major donor Kelly Loeffler going off on how the Republican party was way too conservative, it’s hard to express the depth of her nothingness,” he tweeted. “She makes Martha McSally look like Margaret Thatcher.”