His open-application process to replace the late U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson leaps to mind. The quasi-democratic process was made undemocratic and unpopular when Kemp chose billionaire mega-donor Kelly Loeffler. It didn’t do many favors for Loeffler, who had to work to undo the bad blood the process created before she even got started, and lost her race.
That Kemp blunder came in 2019, just before the election year. But luckily for Kemp, it wasn’t his election year.
In 2022, Kemp has given Perdue and his team a first-hand look at why so few challengers have taken on sitting governors in primary elections in Georgia before.
Kemp used the first three months of the year to pass a series of legislative priorities deeply popular with the GOP base and the 40 days after that to sign them one by one. Governors can do that and this one has.
He signed the “Unmask Georgia Students Act,” surrounded by, what else, unmasked students on the steps of the state Capitol.
Kemp chose Perdue’s favorite White Diamond restaurant in Bonaire, Ga. to sign the state’s upcoming $1 billion tax cut.
State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler noted that it’s the second across-the-board rate cut since the state income tax was implemented in 1937. “This doesn’t just happen,” he said, giving credit to Kemp for supporting it.
Hufstetler was one of more than a dozen GOP lawmakers on hand to cheer the tax cut and the governor himself, a show of support that demonstrates that Republicans can support Trump and Kemp at the same time.
When Kemp went to Gable Sporting Goods in Douglasville to sign the permitless-carry gun legislation, there were so many Republican lawmakers on hand they couldn’t squeeze into the frame for photographers capturing the event.
Maybe no other day showed the difference in clout between incumbent and challenger than an afternoon in April, when Perdue called a press conference to hit Kemp on crime rates in the state.
He met with reporters on a patch of hot asphalt at a Buckhead gas station, the site of a police investigation earlier in the day, and accused Kemp of being “asleep at the wheel” on crime.
“It’s time to make this stuff stop. It’s unacceptable. It’s embarrassing,” Perdue said to a handful of TV cameras and a homeless man watching on.
Earlier, a half-mile up the road, Kemp signed seven pieces of public safety legislation into law, flanked by dozens of uniformed officers and lawmakers at Buckhead Plaza.
“While other people are throwing rocks, our governor is working hard to make sure our families are protected and our businesses are protected,” state Rep. Jay Collins said, just before Kemp signed anti-gang legislation that had passed with the votes of Democrats and Republicans.
Later that day, NRA board member and former Georgia congressman Bob Barr announced the National Rifle Association was giving its endorsement to Kemp.
Along with the ability to schedule press conferences and state events, including a Memorial Day ceremony pegged for Wednesday instead of the post-primary national holiday, Kemp has maximized other perks of the office.
There’s the natural advantage an incumbent governor has with GOP donors, who have helped Kemp build up a 10-to-one advantage over Perdue with cash on hand. Kemp also managed to pass a bill through the legislature last year to create a “leadership committee,” for another source to fuel his campaign. Its latest filing showed Georgians First had raised $4.7 million to support Kemp’s reelection since it was formed in June.
If he gets past his primary against Perdue, which seems increasingly likely, the 40-day bill signing window will be closed, but he’ll keep the perks of being able to make news and take credit for the good happening in Georgia.
But he’ll also have to explain to Georgians why, with all of the power he’s had for four years, he signed a six-week abortion ban that’s not popular with most Georgia voters, and didn’t push to expand Medicaid, even as Georgia’s rural hospitals closed for lack of funding.
Kemp will be happy enough if he gets to the general election to face Stacey Abrams in November. Until then, he’ll still be the governor running for governor, racking up all of the advantages that entails.