Apr 25, 2022 - Politics

Kemp and Perdue square off in first Republican governors primary debate

Kemp and Perdue face off at the WSB TV debate
Screenshot courtesy of WSB-TV

The gloves came off Sunday night when incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp and former Sen. David Perdue, once allies and now opponents, took part in the first Republican gubernatorial primary debate.

Why it matters: Early voting for the primary begins May 2.

The big picture: Two years ago it would have been difficult to find differences between Kemp and Perdue's policies, but over the course of his campaign Perdue has doggedly found issues to set them apart and attacked Kemp's record.

Details: The two sparred over the last election, immigration, education and crime.

Perdue said the only reason he lost his Senate seat was because of Kemp’s handling of the 2020 election. Then they argued forcefully about whether Perdue asked Kemp to call for a special legislative session to overturn it.

  • He also repeated his central campaign argument: falsely accusing Kemp of allowing the 2020 election to be stolen. (The U.S. attorney general found no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.)
  • And Perdue tried to get Kemp to take a position on Buckhead cityhood. But Kemp stuck to his neutral stance.

Between the lines: Perdue has latched onto the immigration issue. Kemp campaigned on it in 2018 with a memorable ad promising to "round up criminal illegals" in his own pickup truck.

  • "Did your truck break down?" Perdue asked during the debate.
  • In closing, Perdue said, "What you heard tonight was a weak governor trying to cover up a bad record."

The other side: "As much as you want me to be a dictator, I am not. I have to abide by the laws and constitution of this state," Kemp said of Perdue's attacks.

  • "My opponent is attacking my record because he has none of his own, which is why he didn't win his Senate race. He's trying to blame everybody but himself."

What's next: A second debate is happening Thursday night on Savannah's WTOC. And a third, organized by the Atlanta Press Club, is scheduled for Sunday.

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