The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Sunday that David Perdue, the Republican senator defeated by Senator Jon Ossoff in a special election earlier this year, is back to re-enter the national spotlight with plans to challenge Mr Kemp for the GOP nomination in the 2022 governor’s race.
Challenging a sitting governor within one’s own party is an unusual move; to do so with the potential backing of Mr Trump (as the Journal-Constitution reports Mr Perdue is likely to receive) would provoke a civil war among state Republicans almost certainly centred around the issue of Mr Kemp’s refusal to push state lawmakers to challenge Mr Trump’s defeat to President Joe Biden in Georgia last November.
Mr Trump’s efforts to overturn Georgia’s election results were some of the most shocking and widely-publicised, and resulted in state officials opening a criminal inquiry that remains ongoing. In one stunning phone call, Mr Trump was heard pressuring Mr Kemp’s secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, to “find” thousands of ballots in his favour that would put him ahead of Mr Biden in the state.
“What I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes ... because we won the state,” the president is heard directing the GOP official, who did not comply and instead provided audio of the call to news outlets.
Efforts by Mr Trump to support challenges to officials who stood in the way of efforts to change the final results or baselessly allege fraud in state ballot counts are largely seen as an attempt by the former president to minimise opposition to similar tactics should Mr Trump run for office again in 2024.
Facing defeat in two runoff elections in the days leading up to the certification of the US election on 6 January, Mr Perdue and fellow Georgia ex-Senator Kelly Loeffler announced that they would support objections to Mr Trump’s defeat in the state when Congress met to count the Electoral College votes. The two withdrew their plans to object, however, after a violent assault on the US Capitol by supporters of the former president took place that day.
The former senator’s campaign could sharply divide the GOP electorate in the state to the point that it affects turnout in the general election, regardless of who wins. That possibility is a boon for Democrats including Stacey Abrams, the activist and politician who came close to ousting Mr Kemp in 2018 in an election marred by accusations of voter suppression. Ms Abrams recently announced that she is launching a second bid for the governor’s mansion after several years of working as a voting rights activist in the state leading two organisations that together registered hundreds of thousands to vote in the state.
A spokesperson for the governor lashed out at Mr Perdue on Sunday after the news was reported with a statement that referenced the former senator’s past controversy over stock trades that drew the attention of the Justice Department.
“Governor Kemp has a proven track record of fighting the radical left to put hardworking Georgians first, while Perdue is best known for ducking debates, padding his stock portfolio during a pandemic, and losing winnable races,” said Mr Kemp’s spokesperson.
They added to the Journal-Constitution: ”Perdue’s only reason for running is to soothe his own bruised ego, because his campaign for US Senate failed to inspire voters at the ballot box — twice.”
A spokesperson for Mr Kemp fired back at the governor in a statement to the Journal-Constitution that did not confirm that Mr Perdue was running.
“If Brian Kemp fought Stacey Abrams as hard as he fights Perdue and Trump, we wouldn’t be in this mess,” they said.
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