DALTON, Ga. — Kelly Loeffler is not just a U.S. senator and a successful businesswoman. She is also one of the social doyennes of Buckhead, the Atlanta neighborhood of the wealthy and aspiring rich, where she has often thrown open the gates of her $10.5 million European-style manse, known as Descante, for charity fund-raisers.
The role requires maintaining a certain unruffled poise. So it was impossible to know what Ms. Loeffler was thinking as she rolled up to a brewpub in Dalton, Ga., in late August for a campaign event and was greeted by Marjorie Taylor Greene, a fellow Republican who had just won a House primary after promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory and making offensive remarks about Black people, Jews and Muslims.
Ms. Loeffler and Ms. Greene exchanged pleasant chitchat near the front door. Later, Ms. Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat in December and must win an upcoming special election to keep it, grabbed a microphone and talked about finishing the wall on the Mexican border, the “fake news” that would never intimidate her and the “dangerous Marxist movement called the Black Lives Matter political organization.”
A reporter asked Ms. Loeffler whether she supported Ms. Greene, and whether she denounced QAnon.
“Marjorie is fighting to defeat socialism; that’s what I’m focused on,” Ms. Loeffler said, adding, “I just thank her for coming out.”
It is a long way from hosting soirees at Descante to joining forces with a right-wing conspiracy theorist at a beer hall. But it is a journey that Ms. Loeffler has undertaken in earnest as she seeks to conform to the tastes of Donald Trump’s Republican Party — just one of the many establishment Republicans who have embraced Trumpism in recent years.
For Ms. Loeffler, a political newcomer, the journey has meant breaking with old allies, picking new fights and struggling to explain away a life before politics when she occasionally gave money to Democrats, like former Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, and rubbed elbows with Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who ran for Georgia governor in 2018.
Her harsh criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement has run afoul of a longstanding convention in her adopted hometown, sometimes referred to as the Atlanta Way, in which the white corporate class has cultivated a level of solidarity with the city’s African-American leaders and civil rights movement.
In and around Buckhead, a version of the same question has been discreetly raised among some members of the senator’s social circle: What happened to Kelly Loeffler?
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