U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., hit the campaign trail Friday to rally with fellow Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee in support of anti-abortion policies and the nominee for an open U.S. Supreme Court seat amid the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The appearance by Loeffler and Blackburn came hours after President Donald Trump announced he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for coronavirus and would quarantine for two weeks.
Both Loeffler and Blackburn said they tested negative for the highly contagious virus earlier in the day after taking rapid tests amid stops in Cobb and Forsyth counties, where they pressed for more conservative women representation in Congress.
“There is nothing that the radical left fears more than a strong conservative woman,” Loeffler said at a stop at Black Diamond Grill in Cumming, Ga.
Loeffler is waging a fierce battle with Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Doug Collins to woo conservative Georgia voters ahead of the upcoming Nov. 3 special election. Loeffler, an Atlanta businesswoman, is facing around 20 other contenders for her seat after being appointed in December to fill the remainder of retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term.
A Collins campaign spokesman brushed off Blackburn’s show of support for Loeffler, saying: “Who’s Marsha?”
Collins has crisscrossed the state since summer in a bid to pull enough conservative voters from Loeffler to make an expected January runoff for the Senate seat. He has touted his background as a U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain, the son of a state trooper and his staunch backing of Trump, including the president’s Supreme Court pick in Amy Coney Barrett, who many Republicans hope will vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion on demand.
“Let’s get Amy Coney Barrett confirmed,” Collins said in a recent Facebook post. “Let’s stop the killing.”
Barrett’s nomination is being watched closely for its potential to swing the court in favor of more conservative justices.
Collins has pounced on Loeffler for her co-ownership of the women’s professional basketball team Atlanta Dream that once held a promotional event benefitting the pro-choice group Planned Parenthood, which is typically portrayed as a villain by conservative politicians.
Loeffler has dismissed that criticism, maintaining that among her top priorities if elected to keep her seat would be to fight pro-choice groups and policies, particularly Planned Parenthood.
Asked if her main interest in confirming Barrett would be to end abortion protections, Loeffler said she couldn’t speak for the court nominee but favors her strict constitutionalist approach to the bench.
“I believe myself that that would mean protecting the unborn,” Loeffler said Friday. “That’s what I stand for. That’s what I hope can happen. But I cannot speak for Judge Barrett on that.”
Loeffler also said she would not require attendees at her campaign events going forward to wear masks despite the president’s coronavirus contraction, though she said she “encourages all Georgians to wear a mask.”
Meanwhile, Democratic frontrunner Rev. Raphael Warnock has seen a recent surge in the polls that suggests he’s pulling slightly ahead of Collins and Loeffler, though likely not enough to gain the 50% vote majority needed in November to avoid a runoff.
Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, has been campaigning lately alongside fellow Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff, the investigative journalist challenging U.S. Sen. David Perdue in the Nov. 3 general election.
Echoing Democratic candidates nationwide, Warnock has sought to elevate access to health care and health insurance as a top issue in the Senate race, noting he would cast votes to strengthen the Affordable Care Act with a public option.
Warnock’s campaign announced this week he had raised nearly $13 million in campaign donations since July, upping his total haul to more than $17 million. That amount should help him compete down the stretch for ad space with Loeffler, who has committed $20 million of her own money to her campaign and aired high-priced ads funded by allied political action committees.
“The next justice appointed to the Supreme Court could determine the future of health care,” Warnock said in a recent statement. “Whether protections for pre-existing conditions remains the law of the land rests in the hands of the Supreme Court, and Georgians cannot afford a senator who has tried to overturn the [Affordable Care Act] and end those protections to be our voice in appointing the nation’s new justice.”