Republican candidates for governor Casey Cagle (from left), Hunter Hill, and Brian Kemp participate in the Atlanta Press Club Republican primary debate for governor at the GPB studios on Thursday, May 17, 2018, in Atlanta. Cagle and Kemp will meet in a runoff July 24 after the May 22 primary election. Curtis Compton/
Photo: Compton
Photo: Compton

Hunter Hill to endorse Kemp in Georgia gov race 

Republican Hunter Hill said Sunday he will endorse Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s campaign for governor, giving him the support of the third-place finisher in the final days before the runoff vote.

Kemp hopes the former state senator, who will announce his support at a Tuesday event, will help him gain more traction in the Atlanta suburbs against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the July 24 contest. 

Long the front-runner, Cagle narrowly trails Kemp in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News poll

Hill’s decision is no surprise, given the longtime animosity between him and Cagle. Still, Cagle’s campaign hoped he would stay neutral in the contest – and his allies were pressuring Hill to remain on the sidelines. 

That’s because Hill, who represented an Atlanta-based state Senate district, performed well in parts of the state where Cagle hopes to dominate. 

He finished in second-place to Cagle in Cobb and Fulton counties, edging out Kemp in those vote-rich territories. And he narrowly carried Glynn County, home of a trove of GOP voters and retirees, on his way to capturing 18 percent of the total Republican vote. 

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp emerged as the top finalists in Tuesday's election.

The announcement came shortly after Cagle and Kemp wrapped up Sunday’s Channel 2 Action News debate, pummeling each other over issues involving trust and competence

During the primary, Cagle relentlessly attacked Hill because he favored a showdown against Kemp in the runoff. And Hill’s decision was surely made easier by the secretly-made recording, where Cagle is heard saying he supported “bad public policy” to deprive Hill of key outside support. 

While hundreds of local elected officials and state lawmakers have taken sides in this race, most higher-profile Republicans have not weighed in. 

U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue are steering clear of the runoff, and so has much of the U.S. House delegation.

Gov. Nathan Deal, meanwhile, recently urged prominent donors in Hall County to support Cagle’s campaign and left open the possibility that he could formally endorse the lieutenant governor. 

“I’ve tried to let them run their own campaigns,” Deal said. “But I do have an interest in trying to make sure that whoever my successor is does not go in and undo and destroy many of the great advances that we’ve made.”

Read more recent AJC coverage of the governor’s race:

GOP gubernatorial rivals trade jabs at WSB debate before runoff 

Georgia GOP governor's race could hinge on Hall County vote

At NRA rally, Cagle rewarded for move to ‘kill’ Delta tax break 

Anti-Kemp ad brings campaign for governor to massage parlor 

Cagle recording, Kemp donations fuel Georgia GOP candidates’ debate 

Why Cagle’s home county may be linchpin in Georgia GOP’s governor’s race 

Understanding Georgia's GOP runoff for governor

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.