Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp cruised to an easy victory Tuesday, winning the Republican nomination in his bid for reelection by handily defeating the challenger that former President Donald Trump had recruited to end Kemp’s political career for refusing to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in the state.
Trump, who tried to overthrow American democracy in a last-ditch attempt to remain in power after the 2020 election, had made Kemp his top target in his effort to punish Republicans who did not support those efforts.
He talked former U.S. Sen. David Perdue into getting into the race, persuaded another supporter to run for a congressional race instead of governor to clear the field for Perdue, and staged two rallies for him in addition to spending millions from his own political committee on Perdue’s behalf, something he has not done for any other candidate.
Despite this, Kemp won with a staggering margin of victory over Perdue, 73% to 22%, with 82% of the vote counted.
That margin is well over the simple majority he needed to avoid a runoff next month. He will now face Democrat Stacey Abrams, who had no significant opposition in her primary, in the November general election — a rematch of the 2018 race, when he narrowly defeated her in a year that Democrats did well across the country.
Kemp had been secretary of state, in charge of administering elections, for nine years prior to his 2018 run for governor, and Abrams accused him of using his position to help himself win by suppressing the vote of her supporters.
Kemp said in a news conference Monday that he has been expecting a tough reelection race ever since.
He incurred Trump’s wrath in November and December of 2020 when he refused Trump’s demands that he somehow reverse Trump’s 11,779-vote loss in Georgia by calling a special legislative session so lawmakers could nevertheless award Trump the state’s 16 electoral votes.
Trump’s ire hurt Kemp’s standing with some Georgia Republicans, but most approved of his end to business COVID shutdowns, his reopening of schools, his tax cuts and his “heartbeat” abortion law.
At the Monday news conference ― just hours before a final pre-election rally with former Vice President Mike Pence, with whom Trump is also angry for refusing to help him remain in office despite losing — Kemp said he understands that Trump could continue to attack him in the general election campaign, but that is something he has no ability to influence.
“I had a great relationship with President Trump,” Kemp said. “I’ve never said anything bad about him. I don’t plan on doing that. I’m not mad at him. I think he’s just mad at me. And that’s something that I can’t control.”