On the Georgia Trail: Pence reunites with Kemp

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Geoff Duncan dishes on his future

CUMMING — When Mike Pence headlined a rally for Gov. Brian Kemp before the May primary, it marked the former vice president’s biggest break from Donald Trump. Now he’s one of a flood of GOP figures lending their support to Kemp in the final stretch of his rematch against Stacey Abrams.

Before a crowd of hundreds outside a downtown Cumming cigar shop, Pence praised the governor Tuesday as “singularly one of the most successful conservative governors” in the nation and one of his close political allies.

He also tailored his pitch around Kemp’s Democratic opponent, drawing cheers from the crowd: “I’m here because Stacey Abrams can never be governor of the great state of Georgia.”

Pence’s last major event with Kemp was a primary-eve event for the governor as he faced former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who centered his challenge on his loyalty to Trump. Pence’s endorsement of Kemp was seen as a major divide that could echo through the 2024 campaign.

At the Cumming event, Pence sidestepped questions about what a Kemp victory would mean for the future of the GOP. But he tacitly knocked Trump’s coronavirus policy by bringing up Kemp’s decision to roll back economic restrictions early in the pandemic.

“Let me be very clear about this: Georgia was not one of the first states to reopen its economy and end the shutdowns. Georgia was the first state in America to open up again,” he said to cheers from the crowd.

Trump was among the most outspoken critics of Kemp’s April 2020 decision to lift restrictions that let shuttered businesses reopen, saying he “totally” disagreed with the move.

Kemp, for his part, also stressed his economic policy as he urged supporters to ignore his lead in the polls.

“We cannot let up. Do not believe the polls. Do not believe the media,” he said. “We’ve got to work like we’ve never worked before.”

Kemp is expected to campaign Wednesday with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, and he will hit the trail Thursday and Friday with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Ducey and Christie have both found themselves on Trump’s bad side.

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

What’s next for Geoff Duncan

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said he would return to the private sector “for now” after his term ends in January, but he didn’t rule out another run for public office as he focuses on his “GOP 2.0″ pitch to chart out a post-Donald Trump vision for his party.

“Being lieutenant governor has certainly taught me a lot of life lessons I hope to use in the future. If the opportunity to run for office again one day, if it makes sense for me and my family, we’ll certainly look at the opportunity,” Duncan said. “But for now, we’re going to focus on trying to heal and rebuild the party.”

The remarks came at the Buckhead Club, where Duncan held court before dozens of executives, officials and supporters.

After emerging as one of U.S. Senate hopeful Herschel Walker’s leading GOP critics, Duncan wouldn’t say whether he planned to vote for the former football star.

Duncan said he wouldn’t vote for Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and that he is “going to continue to try to figure out fact from fiction.”

Former Trump pick for U.S. attorney Bobby Christine stumps for Walker

AUGUSTA — The latest Republican to take the stage stumping with U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker was once tapped by then-President Donald Trump to serve as the U.S. attorney in Atlanta.

Bobby Christine currently serves as the district attorney in Columbia County, but back in late 2020 he was the U.S. attorney for counties in South Georgia when his colleague in the north, Byung “BJay” Pak, was forced out. Pak later told congressional investigators that he had resisted Trump’s efforts to investigate and overturn the 2020 general election that he lost in Georgia.

Christine was chosen as Pak’s replacement, but he was equally resistant to Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

On the stage outside of a car dealership, Christine said a vote for Walker was a vote for backing law enforcement.

“Herschel Walker will put bucks to amplify my bang,” Christine said. “I can bring folks to court, but I only have the tools in my kit. And he will assist, and I won’t have to look over my shoulder to know whether he’s there.”

Christine said a “never-ending surge of prosecution” is needed to bring down rising crime rates, and that will only happen if the federal government allocates the money to do it.