Georgia GOP gubernatorial clash: Trump takes aim at Kemp in Perdue’s first ad blitz

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Georgia GOP gubernatorial clash: Trump takes aim at Kemp in Perdue’s first ad blitz

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In a Republican Party still very much dominated by Donald Trump, candidates with highly sought after and prized endorsements by the former president are showing them off.

And that’s exactly what former Sen. David Perdue’s doing, as he primary challenges Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia.

“David Perdue is an outstanding man. He’s tough. He’s smart. He has my complete and total endorsement,” Trump says to camera in Perdue’s first campaign television commercial, which started running in Georgia on Tuesday.

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In the spot, which Perdue’s campaign tells Fox News it’s spending in the low six figures to run statewide on TV and on digital, the announcer highlights that the former senator’s “an America First conservative outsider” and “is the only candidate for governor endorsed by President Donald Trump.” 

Perdue doesn’t speak in the commercial but appears in pictures alongside the former president.

Four years ago, with the support of Trump, Kemp narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams to win the governorship. But the conservative governor earned Trump’s ire starting in late 2020, after he certified now President Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia in the presidential election, following two recounts of the vote. Trump, who had unsuccessfully urged Kemp and other top Republican officials in the state to overturn the results, has repeatedly vowed to return to Georgia to campaign against Kemp. Trump for months urged Perdue to primary challenge the governor, and late last year he endorsed Perdue a day after the former senator launched his bid.

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Perdue’s move set up an epic GOP primary battle with Kemp in a one-time solidly red state that’s become a top general election battleground. Kemp’s also facing primary challenges from two other lesser-known candidates.

Then-Sen. David Perdue speaks at a campaign event on Dec. 17, 2020, in Columbus, Georgia. 

Then-Sen. David Perdue speaks at a campaign event on Dec. 17, 2020, in Columbus, Georgia. 
(Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Abrams, the voting rights organizer, former state Democratic legislative leader, and rising national star in her party, launched her second straight run for governor a week before Perdue jumped into the race.

Trump charges in the new ad that “the Democrats walked all over Brian Kemp. He was afraid of Stacey the hoax Abrams. Brian Kemp let us down. We can’t let it happen again.” 

The president appeared to be pointing towards a sweeping overhaul of the way Georgia elections were administered, that Kemp quietly signed into law in 2019. Some of the provisions, which were backed by Democrats, addressed concerns raised during Kemp’s 2018 victory over Abrams regarding how nonwhite voters were treated. 

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The law, which was approved by Georgia’s GOP controlled legislature, blocked county election officials from rejecting absentee ballots due to mismatched signatures and prevented people from being kicked off the voting rolls due to information that doesn’t match government databases.

But the measure also strengthened election security by adding Georgia to a 25-state electronic registration information center that is used for the purpose of tracking voters who move in and out of state to keep the voting rolls clear.

Abrams voting rights group, Fair Fight, criticized the final bill that was signed into law.

Stacey Abrams speaks at a rally at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia on Nov. 2, 2020.

Stacey Abrams speaks at a rally at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia on Nov. 2, 2020.
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Cody Hall, a senior adviser with the Kemp-allied Georgians First Leadership Committee, took aim at Perdue as he responded to the new ad. 

“While President Trump brought jobs back from overseas, David Perdue made a career outsourcing them to China, Mexico, and other countries. That’s not America First – that’s David Perdue padding his own wallet on the backs of hardworking Americans,” Hall argued.

Georgians First Leadership Committee targeted Perdue in December with an ad claiming he outsourced Americans jobs to China while lining his pockets.

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Perdue, a former corporate chief executive officer who was elected to the Senate in 2014, was defeated in his bid for a second term by a razor-thin margin by Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s twin Jan. 5, 2021 runoff elections. Democrat Raphael Warnock edged Rep. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the other contest, handing the Democrats the Senate majority. 

Georgia Democrats are capitalizing on the crossfire between Perdue and Kemp.

“Every day that Kemp and Perdue continue their petty fights, it becomes clearer that they’re more concerned with tearing each other down than offering solutions to improve Georgians’ lives,” Democratic Party of Georgia spokesperson Max Flugrath argued.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia formally launches his 2022 re-election campaign at a kick-off event in Perry, Georgia, on July 10, 2021.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia formally launches his 2022 re-election campaign at a kick-off event in Perry, Georgia, on July 10, 2021.
(Brian Kemp 2022 re-election campaign)

Kemp’s built a formidable war chest as he runs for re-election.

As first reported by Fox News a month ago, the governor hauled in over $7 million during the second half of 2021 and started the new year with over $12 million cash on hand.

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And the most recent poll in the Georgia GOP gubernatorial primary indicates Kemp with the edge with four months to go until the May 24 primary

According to a Quinnipiac University survey conducted Jan. 19-24, Kemp was supported by 43% of likely Republican primary voters, with 36% backing Perdue and former state lawmaker Vernon Jones, a Democrat turned Republican who was one of Trump’s top Black surrogates in Georgia in the 2020 White House race, at 10%. The other candidates all polled in the lower single digits, with five percent undecided.

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