WASHINGTON — Control of the Senate is at stake in the Tuesday Georgia runoff elections with Republican contender and Illinois native Sen. Kelly Loeffler having deep, formative ties to downstate Illinois and Chicago.
Loeffler was born in central Illinois, received her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her MBA from DePaul.
As a grad student and later as an adult in the business world, Loeffler lived in Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast, records show.
After she married Jeffrey Sprecher, the founder and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange Inc., a commodities exchange where Loeffler was an executive, the couple lived in Atlanta in 2008 and also owned high-end condos in the Palmolive Building, 159 E. Walton Place.
The firm, based in Atlanta, had offices in Chicago.
“I was born and raised on a farm. I grew up working in the fields. I started filling out a time card when I was 11. I waitressed my way through high school and college, and I was the first in my family to graduate from college,” Loeffler said at a Dec. 6 debate with Democrat Raphael Warnock.
The outcome of the two Georgia runoff contests will determine the ability of President-elect Joe Biden to carry out his agenda.
Republican Sen. David Perdue is facing off against Democrat Jon Ossoff. If the Democrats win the two seats the Senate will split 50-50 with the Democrats in control because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris can cast the tie-breaking vote.
In December 2019, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Loeffler to replace GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, who was retiring before his term ended.
Though a political novice, Loeffler was CEO of Bakkt, a firm managing digital assets from cryptocurrencies to award points, and known best as the co-owner of the WNBA Atlanta Dream basketball team.
Loeffler was born in Bloomington on Nov. 27, 1970, and raised on a corn and soybean farm in Stanford in McLean County. Loeffler’s Senate financial disclosure shows she continues to own farmland in Stanford.
Loeffler played basketball for the Olympia High School Spartans and, according to a January 2020 story in the Pekin Daily Times, was a woodwind player in the high school marching band.
After graduating high school in 1988, a new world opened up to Loeffler during her undergrad days in Urbana-Champaign, where she was a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. In 1992, Loeffler received her undergraduate degree in business administration.
In April 2019, Loeffler was in Chicago to receive the 2019 Gies College of Business Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus award, where she talked about the role the University of Illinois played in her life.
“As a 17-year-old farm kid setting foot on campus, the first in my family to attend a university, I experienced both challenges and enjoyment,” she said at the Gies Business spring luncheon.
The U. of I. “gave me the tools to find success and learn how to bounce back when I failed.” After graduation, “that 17-year-old farm kid had become an educated woman that was able to move to Los Angeles and kick off my career.”
After working at Toyota North America several years as a district manager, Loeffler moved from Los Angeles to Chicago to study for her MBA between 1997 and 1999 at DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.
With an MBA in hand, she went to Stamford, Connecticut, for a few months, returning to Chicago to work downtown in equity research at William Blair, a global financial services firm, for two years.
She moved to Atlanta in 2002 to work for Intercontinental Exchange.
A May 2008 Chicago Magazine article by Dennis Rodkin detailed the condo at the Palmolive building Loeffler and Sprecher bought for about $1.66 million in April 2007. They spent about $1 million fixing it up and were trying to sell for $2,495,000.
The eight-room, 2,500-square-foot condo “has been sumptuously finished with extensive millwork, gracious chandeliers and a home automation system that controls everything from the indoor temperature to the blackout shades on the windows.”
At the time, the couple was selling this unit because they were buying a bigger one in the famed building.
Cook County property records also show that Loeffler once owned a condo at 1221 N. Dearborn St.
In talking to Georgia voters, Loeffler often refers to her youth on the farm — and leaves out the Chicago chapters of her life.