Collins, a four-term Republican from northern Georgia, had lobbied hard for the position when Sen. Johnny Isakson announced his retirement last year. Kemp, however, chose Loeffler, against the advice of Trump, who backed Collins for the job.
House officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly about Collins’s plans, which were first report by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. A spokeswoman for the congressman declined to comment.
The news comes as Democrats are eyeing Georgia as a top 2020 target in their bid to retake the Senate. Since the race would constitute a special election to finish Isakson’s last two years in office, it would not include a primary, allowing multiple candidates of both parties to run for the position.
That means, should Democrats unify behind one candidate, they could take advantage of a split in the GOP base. If no candidate receives more than a majority of the vote, the top two candidates would proceed to a runoff in January 2021.
As the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Collins has played an integral role in defending the president in the impeachment inquiry and on television. He is expected to have the backing of Trump’s most aggressive supporters in the House, which could cause problems for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which have backed Loeffler.
Loeffler is the chief executive of Bakkt, a subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange, and also co-owns the Atlanta Dream, the local WNBA team. Her wealth allows her to self-fund her campaign.
But she has faced questions about whether she is conservative enough. On Monday, she accused fellow GOP Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) of trying to “appease the left” in favoring witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial.
“After 2 weeks, it’s clear that Democrats have no case for impeachment,” the tweet read. “Sadly, my colleague @SenatorRomney wants to appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander the @realDonaldTrump during their 15 minutes of fame. The circus is over. It’s time to move on! #gapol”
That was a strikingly different tone from a March 2013 article in Atlanta magazine, which jointly interviewed Loeffler and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher.
When an interviewer noted that she gave a very large gift to Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, Loeffler noted: “We both did.”
“Taking politics off the table, the Romneys are really lovely people, and well-intended,” Sprecher said. “We’d never known anybody that was running for president and actually had a friendship with them! And so it was easy to support a friend.”
Loeffler and Sprecher have been friends with the Romneys for more than a decade, with the Georgia couple having hosted several events for Romney at their Atlanta home, according to a person familiar with their relationship.
Combined, Loeffler and Sprecher donated $1.5 million to Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney super PAC, in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Romney declined to strike back Monday when asked about Loeffler’s tweet.
“I think a good deal of Senator Loeffler and she and Jeff are good friends and have supported me time and time again,” Romney told reporters. “And I appreciate having her in the Senate.”
Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.