Mar 2, 2022 - Politics

Former Sen. Perdue takes on Rivian plant

Perdue speaking on a stage to people in lawn chairs
David Perdue speaking Tuesday to opponents of the Rivian plant in Rutledge, Georgia. Photo: Emma Hurt/Axios

Something that traditionally bridges divides in Georgia — new jobs — is deepening one in the battle for the governor’s mansion.

What’s happening: Former Sen. David Perdue is taking aim at fellow Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s landmark economic development victory: upstart electric vehicle maker Rivian’s promised $5 billion factory and 7,500 new jobs.

Driving the news: Perdue is criticizing the deal because Democratic mega-donor George Soros recently purchased nearly $2 billion worth of stock in the publicly traded company. Perdue told reporters Tuesday that if elected and if he still had an avenue to do so, he would kill the project.

  • Perdue adopted the cause of grassroots opposition to the project from locals worried about the change it could bring to the small, rural Social Circle community and possible environmental impacts.
  • “You guys want to be heard, but your governor is refusing to listen,” Perdue told a crowd of nearly 200 Tuesday night in Rutledge, Georgia. I’m here today to tell you I hear you, I see you and I’m standing with you in this fight.”

Catch up quick: State leaders were ecstatic about Rivian's announcement in December. Stacey Abrams also praised the news.

  • But in February local opposition had grown to the point that local officials asked the state economic development department to take over the planning process to streamline permitting, public engagement and responses to concerns. (The state took on this role with the Kia plant in West Point as well.)
  • “While many will welcome these changes with open arms…we fully understand that some in your communities are concerned about the unknowns of what this project will bring,” said economic development commissioner Pat Wilson in a letter announcing the move.
  • The complex project involves the four counties of the local Joint Development Authority, plus the municipal government of Social Circle.

Of note: The full details of the much-anticipated incentive package have yet to be released. It is expected to be the largest in state history, given Rivian’s investment is also a state record.

The other side: Kemp’s campaign communications director Cody Hall called Perdue’s position “sad.”

  • Hall called it “empty rhetoric from a failed politician who is just trying to score political points during the primary” and defended the project as “generational” that “changes lives for the better” by bringing new investment to town and increasing the local tax base.

The intrigue: Republican strategist and former Gov. Nathan Deal staffer Brian Robinson said, “Perdue is calculating that the project’s opponents are more motivated on the issue than its proponents. In other words, those against it are more likely to vote on that issue.”

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