No Love Lost in GOP Gubernatorial Race
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No Love Lost in GOP Gubernatorial Race

Gov. Brian Kemp and former Sen. David Perdue have waged a contentious primary campaign.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

David Perdue and Brian Kemp // Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images
David Perdue and Brian Kemp // Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images

Incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp no doubt would like to look past the Republican primary and concentrate on a November rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Polls suggest that Kemp could win a majority of the primary vote and avoid a June runoff with former Sen. David Perdue.

In November, the GOP primary winner will face former state House minority leader Abrams, who has no primary opposition, and Libertarian Shane Hazel.

Kemp defeated Abrams in 2018 by a margin of 50.2 percent to 48.8 percent.
A survey of 886 likely Republican voters, conducted April 10 by the School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research Center at the University of Georgia, showed Kemp with 53.3 percent and Perdue 26.8 percent.

Kandiss Taylor, Catherine Davis and Tom Williams registered low single-digit support.

Former President Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Perdue, faulting Kemp — whom he calls a RINO (Republican in Name Only) — for not intervening and reversing the results of the state’s 2020 presidential balloting, something Kemp has said he lacked the authority to do.

Perdue similarly blames Kemp, in their April 24 debate calling that vote “rigged and stolen,” despite a lack of evidence and recounts that maintained nearly a 12,000 vote gap between Trump and Joe Biden.

Perdue also blamed Kemp for his own loss to Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff in a January 2021 runoff. “The only reason I’m not in the United States Senate is because you caved in and gave the elections to Stacey [Abrams] and the liberal Democrats in 2020,” Perdue said.

Gov. David Perdue.

Kemp replied, “Weak leaders blame everybody else for their own loss instead of themselves.”

Speaking at a March 26 rally in Commerce, the former president warned that “Trump voters will not go out and vote for Brian Kemp.”

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Trump later told a conservative talk show: “It’s a real close race. David is a good man. I hope he’s going to win it. Maybe we’ll have to do another rally. But it’s a shame. It’s a shame. Not easy to beat a sitting governor. Just remember that.”

A Landmark Communications survey of 660 likely Republican voters in mid-April showed Kemp with a 55.9 percent job approval rating. Kemp can campaign on pay raises for state employees and teachers and having signed in March an income tax refund drawing on $1.1 billion in state surplus funds. Tax refunds were expected to be sent out in late April-early May, ahead of the primary.

Former Gov. Brian Kemp

Kemp’s campaign jumped on reports that, during a March talk show, Perdue said: “It’s disgusting to me as a private citizen to see the governor throwing our taxpayer money as giveaways to teachers, in terms of pay raises to taxpayers in terms of a onetime deal, in terms of a gas tax reduction.”

The state ended fiscal 2021 with a $3.7 billion surplus, supported by $4.9 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds from the American Rescue Plan that the Democrat-controlled Congress passed on party-line votes and the state’s recovery from the economic downturn during the pandemic, the latter evident in a 13.5 percent increase in revenues in 2021 from 2020.

Perdue has proposed eliminating the state income tax, which brings in $14 billion. Perdue also opposes the state’s as-yet unspecified tax breaks for the Rivian electric vehicle plant to be built in Walton and Morgan counties, touted as being a $5 billion investment that will bring 7,500 jobs to the state.

During a March rally in Rutledge, Ga., Perdue pointed a verbal finger at Jewish financier George Soros, a frequent target of conservatives, whose hedge fund reportedly owns $2 billion in Rivian stock. “We can grow the economy without selling out and giving our tax dollars to people like George Soros,” he said.

As of February, Perdue reported raising nearly $1.15 million and had $871,000 cash on hand. As of Jan. 31, Kemp reported raising $19.3 million and had $12.7 million on hand.

The AJC reported that Kemp’s campaign planned a $4.2 million television ad blitz before the primary, backed up by a $5 million ad buy from the Republican Governors Association.

A group called Take Back Georgia was reported to be spending $2 million on ads beginning in airing in April, touting Trump’s endorsement of Perdue. Trump’s political action committee also was reported to be putting $500,000 toward backing Perdue.

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