(Bloomberg) -- Governor Brian Kemp won Georgia’s Republican primary, dealing a blow to former President Donald Trump who incessantly criticized the incumbent for refusing to overturn the state’s 2020 election results.
Trump’s hand-picked choice, former US Senator David Perdue, was defeated by Kemp in Tuesday’s election, according to the Associated Press. With about a quarter of the votes counted, Kemp received 73.1% of the votes, according to the AP. Perdue received 22.3% of the votes.
For Kemp, a 58-year-old serving his first term, the primary results burnished his steadfast position that Georgia’s elections were fair and accurate, and won him the right to a November showdown with Democrat Stacey Abrams. Kemp narrowly defeated Abrams in 2018 to capture the governor’s mansion, and Abrams, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary race, has shot to national fame as a voting rights activist.
Perdue, 72, who lost his Senate seat in January 2021 to Democrat Jon Ossoff, Tuesday’s loss marked a precipitous decline toward the end of a Peach State political career.
A Macon-born business executive and once-formidable ally of Kemp’s, Perdue opted to attach his political future to Trump -- sticking irrevocably to the former president’s unfounded election fraud narrative. On Monday night, hours before Georgia’s voters began to cast their votes, Trump was on a telephone rally, urging people to vote for Perdue and calling Kemp “truly an embarrassment to the Republican Party.”
Kemp, an entrepreneur and former secretary of state, has been a red-meat southern Republican, proving that he was able to speak truth to the ultimate power in his party while maintaining his conservative positions on key issues. During the primary season, he passed new election laws, lowered state taxes, eased handgun laws, and outlawed the teaching of critical race theory.
“Brian Kemp may not have had Trump’s endorsement, but he believed that there were enough Republicans out there who share his conservative values but want an end to all of the divisiveness,” said Tharon Johnson, an Atlanta-based political strategist. “
Kemp knows how to appeal to the Republican base, and he’s likely to demonstrate his prowess in the coming months. He famously ran an advertisement in 2018, in which he cleaned his shotgun while sitting next to a terrified “young man interested in one of my daughters.” In another ad, he’s dressed in a plaid shirt and sitting in the driver’s seat of a pickup truck that he owns “just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take them home myself.”
Perdue, by comparison, has a much more country-clubbish style, and he found himself unable to overcome Kemp’s powerful incumbency.
“Perdue was the original outsider who supported Trump from the beginning,” Johnson said. “Perdue was Trump’s chief promoter and defender in the Senate.”
Kemp spent the final hours days of the race making appearances around the state with prominent national Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Both men, like Kemp, have fallen out favor with Trump. On Friday, Kemp was on the east coast, announcing that Hyundai Motor Co. would invest $5.5 billion to build an electric-vehicle assembly and battery plant near the port city of Savannah.
With polls showing Kemp leading by as much as 20 percentage points, he was already looking past Perdue with the Republican Governor’s Association running Kemp ads, not bothering to mention Perdue but criticizing Abrams for “traveling the world, seeking fame.”
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