May 25, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Top Trump target Brian Kemp wins Georgia's GOP primary for governor

Brian Kemp. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Georgia's incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has fended off a primary challenge from Trump-backed former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, the AP reported.

  • He's now headed into a rematch with Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, whom Kemp defeated in 2018.

Why it matters: Beating Kemp was a top priority of former President Trump after Kemp refused to help him overturn the 2020 election results.

  • But Trump's endorsement and more than $2.6 million in support from his PAC (the most spent on any race in the country) couldn't get Perdue over the finish line.
  • Perdue conceded shortly after the race was called. "I just called the governor and I congratulated him," he said. "And I want you to do the same thing. Right now we got to face the reality. Everything I said about Brian Kemp was true. But here's the other thing that I said was true: He is a much better choice than Stacey Abrams."

Catch up quick: Perdue, who lost his Senate re-election bid in 2021 to Democrat Jon Ossoff, entered the gubernatorial primary in December after much pressure from Trump.

  • He argued that Kemp wouldn't be able to win in November because he'd lost the support of Trump's base.

Yes, but: Perdue's campaign wasn't able to even push Kemp into a runoff. Kemp out-raised him nearly 12 to 1. And public polling throughout the spring showed Kemp's margin of victory continuing to grow.

  • Kemp pulled in support from Republicans including former President George W. Bush and Trump's former Vice President Mike Pence, who headlined a Georgia event for Kemp on Monday, the same time that Trump held a "tele-rally" for Perdue.

Zoom in: Regardless of the Trump endorsement, Kemp's platform featured a slew of policies and a record that appealed to many Georgia Republican voters.

The bottom line: Paul Cutler, a Kemp supporter from Villa Rica, Georgia, told Axios in an interview last month that he separates his support for Trump from his support for Kemp.

"I'm not happy about what happened with Trump" in 2020, he said. "But he's got to let us in Georgia figure out what we want on our own, to think for ourselves about what works for Georgia."

What's next: Kemp last reported more than $10 million in his campaign account.

  • Abrams had more than $8 million but has outpaced Kemp. Kemp has already made new staffing decisions to try to catch up.
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