Georgia Governor Brian Kemp fended off a Republican primary challenger backed by Donald Trump and will now face Stacey Abrams in November
Kemp’s race against former Senator David Perdue was widely seen as a long-shot test of the former president’s endorsement strength.
After surging ahead by roughly 50 points in early returns, the incumbent kept his wide lead over Perdue for more than an hour after polls closed.
The New York Times declared Kemp the winner with roughly a quarter of the vote reported, getting 73.2 percent of the vote compared to Perdue’s 22.3.
Trump had reportedly persuaded Perdue to run after the former business executive lost his Senate seat to Democrat Sen. Jon Ossoff.
The ex-president helped Kemp to the Governor’s Mansion in 2018 when he backed the then-Georgia Secretary of State for the role.
Since then, however, Kemp’s refusal to overturn his state’s 2020 electoral count – which helped President Joe Biden clinch the White House – has made him among Trump’s most frequent targets.
Kemp’s campaign told DailyMail.com: ‘Governor Kemp and his family are honored by the strong support they have seen from Georgians across the state these last few months. Our team is leaving everything on the field in this primary, and we look forward to uniting Republicans to stop Stacey Abrams in the fall.’
Trump’s fury inspired him to throw his weight behind Perdue, who lost his Senate re-election bid in a January 2021 runoff to current Democrat incumbent Senator Jon Ossoff.
Former Senator David Perdue was recruited to run against Kemp by Donald Trump
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But experts did not think Perdue’s campaign effort could hold a candle to Kemp’s current popularity.
Georgia Republican strategist Jay Wallace said of the incumbent governor: ‘He’s one of the only governors that kind of stood up to everybody during the coronavirus stuff, kept the state open, kept everything moving.’
‘The economy’s really good, he’s past a lot of conservative legislation, so it’s harder for Trump to make a case that he has to go,’ the GOP strategist explained.
‘And then you couple that with a campaign that David Perdue hasn’t done a very good job running, it makes it more difficult for Trump.’
Perdue’s campaign made a splash when Trump first goaded him into tossing his hat in the ring, but it’s sputtered since then with a lack of funds and a seeming lack of activity from the candidate himself.
But the campaign was also a reflection of a greater divide within the Republican Party – with Kemp scoring an endorsement from Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence.
Pence, who rebuffed pressure from Trump to reject certain states’ election results early last year, has called the ex-president ‘wrong’ to push his conspiracy theories but has not hesitated to capitalize on the successes of the ‘Trump-Pence administration’ during his recent spate of appearances in front of GOP audiences.
Meanwhile Kemp got the high-profile support of Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence
Progressive activist and former state lawmaker Abrams will be Democrats’ nominee for governor after narrowly losing the position to Kemp in 2018
The former White House officials campaigned for their respective candidates on Monday night.
Pence appeared at a rally for Kemp, where he focused on defeating Abrams in the fall rather than attacking Kemp’s Trump-backed opponent.
‘The Democratic Party has been taken over by a radical left wing that has literally lost its grip on everything that has made this country great, [and] with the full support of Stacey Abrams has unleashed a tidal wave of left-wing policies that has ruined our standing in the world and stifled the American economy,’ the former vice president and ex-Indiana governor said.
Trump, meanwhile, appeared at a tele-rally with Perdue where he said the former Senator is ‘100 percent MAGA’ and that Kemp allowed the 2020 race in Georgia to be ‘rigged and to be stolen.’
The Peach State shattered early voting records for a primary election, with more than 850,000 already cast according to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office.
‘Compared early-voting turnout in recent primaries, this represented a 168 percent increase over the 2018, the last gubernatorial primary and a 212 percent jump above 2020, the last presidential primary year,’ a statement from his office read.
Raffensperger credited the state’s newly-passed election security law for the surge by creating ‘short lines, smooth easy ballot access, and confidence in ballot security,’ despite Democrat critics blasting it as ‘voter suppression.’