U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler speaks during a campaign event at Cobb County’s Republican headquarters in Marietta on July 13, 2020. (Photo by Beau Evans)

MARIETTA – U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., doubled down Monday on criticism of the Black Lives Matter protest movement, calling it a political organization promoting “violence and anti-Semitism” as she seeks to win her seat in a crowded Nov. 3 special election.

Loeffler, a Buckhead businesswoman, has sought to bat back criticism over her opposition to the Women’s National Basketball Association’s recent decision to adopt Black Lives Matter-related phrases on their uniforms. She has urged the league to scrap the plan.

“They are built on a Marxist foundation and the most socialist principles,” Loeffler, who co-owns the Atlanta Dream WNBA team, said of Black Lives Matter at Cobb County’s Republican headquarters Monday.

Loeffler emphasized a distinction between the movement as a political organization with fundraising abilities versus its statements on racial equality and police reform, which she said she supports.

“They want to defund the police, the military,” she added. “They want to empty the prisons. They want to destroy the nuclear family, they’re anti-Semitic and they want to spread violence across the country.”

The comments by Loeffler highlight a recent shift in focus on issues in the campaign for her Senate seat, amid nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality. They also echo President Donald Trump’s bend toward social and cultural subjects as he vies for a second term.

The race for Loeffler’s seat has drawn a field of 21 candidates in an open special election to fill the remainder of former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. Isakson retired at the end of last year, prompting Gov. Brian Kemp to tap Loeffler to hold the seat until the election.

Speaking as part of a two-week statewide campaign tour, Loeffler paired her comments on Black Lives Matter with condemnation of calls from largely Democratic elected officials to reduce or defund local law enforcement agencies in the U.S.

She framed criticism over her views as part a “cancel culture” social approach that Trump has also sought to evoke in his presidential campaign amid recent protests and pressure to remove Confederate monuments.

“We as Americans have every right to express our views without being canceled,” Loeffler said Monday.

Loeffler faces stiff competition from Democratic contenders and from within her own party in Georgia. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a Republican, is campaigning hard for the seat, as is Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat.

Collins, who has especially lobbed criticism at Loeffler, has dismissed her stance on Black Lives Matter as empty politics, drawing ties between her ownership of a WNBA team and the league’s support for Planned Parenthood.

“Now that she’s pretending to be a conservative to run for public office, she should explain her silence and divest herself of this team and her past progressive advocacy,” Collins said.

Warnock, who has amassed a hefty campaign war chest in recent months, has also taken aim at Loeffler while touting his support for the protest movement and its aims.

“The Black Lives Matter movement is an effort to give voice to the very real problem of injustice in our country,” Warnock said on Twitter recently. “While we urge peaceful demonstrations, the pain in the Black community is still real and demands to be heard, no matter how inconvenient that is for Kelly Loeffler.”