MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) — An influential anti-abortion group is backing Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia in her November special election, only months after opposing her appointment to the post.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said Friday that her initial concerns were based on information “from the rumor universe” during a tour of an anti-abortion pregnancy center with Loeffler and the man who appointed her, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
“What changed was, I actually met and got to know Kelly Loeffler,” Dannenfelser said.
The about-face by the group comes as Republicans draw battle lines between Loeffler, a wealthy businesswoman and political newcomer, and Rep. Doug Collins, a loyalist to President Donald Trump who is challenging Loeffler for the seat. Democrats, meanwhile, hope to capitalize on the intraparty division in a state they increasingly see as winnable.
Trump has praised both GOP candidates and has not made an endorsement in the race.
In November, Dannenfelser said Loeffler's position on the board of an Atlanta hospital “should disqualify her from representing the state in the U.S. Senate.”
Days later, Kemp announced Loeffler as his pick to fill the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson. The move was widely seen as a bid to court suburban and female voters — many of whom have reacted to Trump’s rhetoric and policies by moving away from the GOP.
After Loeffler’s name was first floated in media reports as a possible replacement for Isakson, she was attacked by several Trump allies and conservative groups who considered her to be too moderate and inexperienced for the job.
She’s since leaned right on issues like abortion and guns and was a vocal supporter of Trump’s throughout the impeachment process that ended with his acquittal by the Senate last week.
During the tour Friday, Loeffler touted sponsoring "four pro-life bills” since entering the Senate last month
Collins and Loeffler have also fought to lock down endorsements from high-profile Republicans. Former Speaker of the House and Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich has endorsed Loeffler, while former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has endorsed Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
Three Democrats are also vying for the seat: the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the Atlanta church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached; Matt Lieberman, an Atlanta area educator and son of former vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman; and Ed Tarver, a former federal prosecutor who was U.S. attorney for Georgia’s Southern District under President Barack Obama.