Trump’s thirst for revenge is causing chaos in the Georgia governor race

At the heart of the potential battle is Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen, with a narrow victory for Joe Biden in Georgia being a central part of the story. Despite Kemp’s call for an audit with no significant change in vote totals, Trump continued to blame the governor for not examining the results enough and has vowed to support one. main challenge.

So far, none of them have appeared to take on Kemp and receive Trump’s endorsement. A Perdue bid for governor could change that.

A show of wits between Kemp and Perdue could not only disrupt Georgia’s gubernatorial race but also split the GOP at a time when party dominance in the state is threatened by recent election victories by Georgia. Democratic Party. Some Republicans are concerned that a preliminary squabble over the 2020 election could only do more damage to the GOP, in addition to losing the presidential election there. two US Senate seats in Georgia this year in election sprints – including Perdue’s.

“I would hate to see two good men go against each other,” said Eric Tanenblatt, a veteran GOP strategist and former chief of staff to former Republican Governor Sonny Perdue. “After watching the Republican Party become the dominant party in Georgia, it’s baffling to me to see a sitting Republican governor being challenged by another Republican.”

Representative Georgia Buddy Carter, a staunch Trump supporter in the US House of Representatives, told CNN on Tuesday that he and will continue to support Kemp for governor. The Republican congressman added that he did not know what Perdue would do.

“My hope is that he won’t run away,” Carter said. “My hope is that we will only have one candidate that we can unify behind.”

But other allies of the former President objected that Kemp would not be able to retain Trump voters. On Sunday, Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House and a Trump ally, posted on his personal website that only Perdue, not Kemp, can unite the party and defeat Democrat Stacey Abrams , who has not announced but is said to be considering. her own bid for governor.

The result of all this was what a Republican agent in Georgia called a “crisis” of Kemp’s political activism in an attempt to prevent Perdue from running for office. Critics of Republican Kemphave accused the governor’s chief of staff of threatening Perdue’s potential allies with political retribution. Meanwhile, Kemp’s PAC and campaign hired members of Perdue’s broader political circles.

“They’re playing hardball,” said a second GOP employee in Georgia.

On the other hand, Kemp’s allies say the governor is simply taking seriously the threat of a major challenge from a former US senator.

“It will be an all-out war,” said one Kemp ally.

When asked for comment, a spokesman for Kemp’s campaign provided CNN with a statement.

“Governor Kemp and Marty are proud to have lobbied vigorously for — and with — former Senators Perdue and Bonnie throughout the 2020 election cycle,” said Tate Mitchell. “Both the Governor and the First Lady were honored that Senator Perdue told them personally that he would fully support their re-election campaign earlier this year.”

Attempts to reach Perdue for comment were unsuccessful.

Kemp ready to fight

On Monday, Kemp launched a television commercial that could be said to be a positive case for his first term as governor. The ad highlights Georgia’s economic situation along with policies intended to appeal to Republican primaries.

The ad says Kemp “supports the color blue, stops extremists from shaming local police”, “passes a tough new electoral integrity bill” and “keeps our schools and businesses safe.” we are open, while keeping the Georgian people safe” during the pandemic.

But the ad’s cheery tone contrasts with what those close to Kemp say it would be a brutal campaign against Perdue if he challenged the governor.

There is nothing, Kemp’s ally said, there will be no limit to finding Perdue and making his life “a hell on earth”.

“We will have the resources and we will have the incentive,” the person said.

That could include targeting a series of stock trades that Perdue made in January 2020 following a brief summary of the then-new coronavirus pandemic.

The New York Times reported last year that the Justice Department had opened an investigation into Perdue’s dealings but denied the allegation. A spokesperson for Perdue at the time, Casey Black, told CNN, “Separate assessments by the Department of Justice, the Securities & Exchange Commission, and the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee, each of which promptly and independently cleared Senator Perdue of any misconduct .”

The chatter from Kemp’s allies only underscored how the governor’s team was wary of an impending primary war.

Their fears are twofold: One, Perdue could successfully challenge Kemp with Trump’s backing; and two, Kempsurvives a bitter first fight that leaves him and the party vulnerable ahead of the 2022 general election, which Republicans believe will be another uphill battle following Kemp’s narrow 2018 victory before Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Adding to the stakes is the GOP’s battle to win back the Senate seat from Democrat Raphael Warnock, who defeated Perdue Republican Kelly Loeffler in another balloting election earlier this year.

The leading Republican in the Senate primaries, football great Herschel Walker, has a troubled personal history, including allegations discovered by CNN Investigative and other news outlets claimed that the former soccer star threatened women with violence beyond what he revealed in his memoirs. That has some GOP strategists worried about Walker’s chances against Warnock. A well-placed gubernatorial candidate at the top of the ticket could help boost Walker.

But despite warning signs to the Trump-led GOP regarding the 2020 presidential election and the 2021 Senate election, Trump remains a force among Georgia Republicans, especially among Georgia Republicans. voters in the primaries.

“David Perdue with the backing of Donald Trump is very dangerous,” said the GOP’s second executive.

Trump’s Georgia Focus

Trump has specifically focused his anger on Georgia Republicans he considers disloyal after the 2020 election.

Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, took on the brunt of Trump’s anger over his loss of less than 12,000 votes in the state. 2 phone call with Raffensperger, Trump asked the secretary of state to “find” enough votes for Trump to make a difference – a request that Georgia Republicans rejected. Raffensperger now faces a formidable primary challenge from Representative Jody Hice, whom Trump has endorsed.

“Unlike the current Secretary of State of Georgia, Jody leads with integrity,” Trump said in a statement in March. “Jody will stop Fraud and have integrity in our Elections!”

Trump made a similar call to Kemp, in a December 2020 phone call for the governor of Georgia to convene state lawmakers to choose Trump-supporting electors. Kemp, who approved Georgia’s certification of electoral votes for Joe Biden, told Trump he had no power to do anything to change the outcome of the election.

In response, Trump branded Kemp as a “RINO” and later said he was “embarrassed” to endorse him in 2018. During an appearance in Georgia ahead of the Senate elections in January, Trump vowed to campaigning against Kemp ahead of the 2022 primaries.

But Trump’s struggle to find someone capable of taking on Kemp shows how difficult it is to take on an incumbent governor, especially one as powerful as Georgia. Burt Jones, a state senator and perhaps the most ardently Trump-supported of the elected officials in Peach state, resisted the former president’s objections to take on Kemp. Instead, Jones is running in an open primary for lieutenant governor.

Last December, Trump made public that outgoing Representative Doug Collins might run for governor. But Collins, who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in the special election last year, announced in April that he would not run for any office in 2022.

And while former Rep. Vernon Jones (no relation to Burt Jones), who is close to some in Trump’s orbit, entered the race for governor in April, Trump has yet to support it. for him. A former Democrat, Jones is a fixture at Trump campaign rallies and speaks at the 2020 Republican National Convention. He switched parties this year and has become a major figure. representing the right wing of the Republican base.

Despite the prominence, Trump’s hatred of Kemp has not abated.

During a rally in Georgia in September, Trump even said he would like if Abrams, who could run for governor again next year, had the top job instead of Kemp. Party leaders were intrigued by the remark but appeared unwilling to rebuke the former president or rally Kemp’s side.

“I think the most remarkable part was the silence of everyone in the GOP in Georgia,” Erick Erickson, an Atlanta-based talk radio host, told CNN at the time. “No one agrees with him. No one agrees with that. But no one disagrees either.”

CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this story.


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