Brian Kemp maneuvers to gain influence in 2024 politics



Gov. Brian Kemp is taking steps to influence national politics in 2024 after resounding victories in the midterm made him a rising Republican political force, though a bid for president seems highly unlikely.

The governor is seeking a more prominent role at the Republican Governors Association, which held meetings in Washington he attended this week. And he hired two national fundraisers for his newly formed political action committee, telegraphing his growing ambitions to shape federal politics.

Despite some national buzz about a White House bid, Kemp hasn’t shown any of the telltale signs that he’s planning to run, such as hiring a staff-in-waiting for a national campaign or making a beeline to Iowa, New Hampshire or other crucial early states in the GOP nomination process.

And he has notably refused to endorse moving Georgia up in next year’s vote for a Republican presidential nominee, a primary reshuffle that would stand to benefit him if he was seriously considering a bid for national office.

But the maneuvering is meant to keep the governor in the national conversation. His advisers see him as a potential running mate for any GOP nominee but Donald Trump. And many of his allies are convinced he will challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff in 2026.

“We’re keeping all doors open,” a senior Kemp adviser said.

Kemp is trying to maximize his influence in the wing of the party that doesn’t revolve around Trump, who failed in spectacular fashion to depose Kemp after he refused to illegally overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Georgia.

His twin victories over Trump-backed challenger David Perdue in May and Democrat Stacey Abrams in November have opened new doors. Later this month, he’ll join party leaders in Texas for a closed-door convention of top donors organized by GOP strategist Karl Rove.

“He’s looking ahead to his next great journey,” said Jeff Hood, a GOP activist with deep ties to Kemp’s hometown of Athens.

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“He’ll continue to work to expand his reputation as one of Georgia’s most successful pro-business governors while exploring opportunities to gain further name recognition nationally as he strives to become a star of the Republican Party,” Hood said.

The push for a national role comes as he enjoys new heights of power at home. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll in January showed his approval rating was at a personal high of 62%. Many state GOP activists, meanwhile, have embraced his brand over Trump.

ExploreWhy many Georgia Republicans want no part of Trump's comeback

The governor is particularly close to former Vice President Mike Pence, a potential White House candidate who likes to say he was with Kemp “before it was cool.”

Pence was the first national figure to hold an in-state rally for Kemp during his tough 2018 bid. And Pence’s endorsement of Kemp in May was one of the most visible breaks between the former vice president and Trump.

“What I’m watching for is how he engages with people who are announcing that they are running for president and if he gets involved at all with any of those candidates directly,” said Martha Zoller, a GOP commentator and longtime Kemp ally.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Now Kemp faces the challenge of how to deploy the political goodwill he’s accrued while trying to avoid alienating in-state voters with his national ambitions.

It’s a fine line. He faced scattered backlash for his January trip to an elite conference in Switzerland, which he described as a “one-stop shop” for economic development. His adversaries, Democrats and Republicans, are eager to jump on missteps.

“It’s our hope the governor will remain focused on Georgia and the many needs our state has right now,” said state Sen. Elena Parent, one of the top Democrats in the state Legislature.

Even so, Democrats privately note the difficult task of opposing a governor with a soaring approval rating who has so far eschewed returning to polarizing culture wars issues at the start of his second term.

ExploreCulture wars are off the table in Georgia for now

Case in point, his proposed $32.5 budget plan cleared the Georgia House with sweeping Democratic support. And his largely noncontroversial agenda led Democrats to tailor their response with calls for higher teacher pay raises and more health care funding.

“While I don’t expect wholesale changes, Gov. Kemp has always been underestimated. I’ve even been guilty of it at times,” said Chip Lake, a veteran GOP strategist who has occasionally been at odds with Kemp over the years.

“He won’t force national opportunities,” Lake said, “but he and his team know that political capital isn’t static — and they will be strategic at how and when they decide to spend it.”

Kemp’s new federal PAC, called Hardworking Americans, is part of that plan. It launched a website this week with a message that Kemp will use the organization to support federal candidates “who believe we should always put the hardworking men and women of this country first.”

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@

He also hired Jenny Drucker and Alex Lawhon to serve as national fundraisers for the PAC. Both have forged relationships with conservative megadonors.

“This PAC is going to support candidates who have a backbone, who are principled conservatives, and who put the hardworking men and women of this country first,” said Cody Hall, a Kemp strategist who is the executive director of the organization.

Still, Kemp knows better than most how quickly the political winds can shift. Just two years ago, his favorability rating was underwater and his reelection bid was imperiled. Now he’s riding high.

“If you want to do something as governor, now is the time to do it,” said Bobby Kahn, a former top aide to Democrat Roy Barnes when he was governor. “You’re in a honeymoon phase and you’re getting positive national press. That can turn on a dime.”

American Dream for Rent: An AJC Investigation

Large investment firms are pushing homeownership out of reach for many first-time buyers, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found. Single-family houses have been snatched up in the thousands by private equity firms and publicly traded companies, converted into rental properties and bundled into complex investment vehicles.


American Dream For Rent: Investors elbow out individual home buyers. Metro Atlanta is ground zero for corporate purchases, locking families into renting.

Investors zero in on Black neighborhoods. Buy-to-rent push puts home ownership further out of reach in metro Atlanta.

Why corporate purchases took off. Crisis opened door to corporate buying spree

Investors slam tenants with fees, evictions: Private equity makes big push into metro Atlanta’s single-family homes

Investor homes spark neighborhood tensions: Suburban Atlanta home owners clash with firms buying, building single-home rentals

Capitol nixes oversight amid housing crunch: State legislature blames local government, not investors, for rising prices

About this investigation


Politically Georgia podcast: Inside the American Dream for Rent investigation