As Trump fumes, Kemp’s former Georgia foes fall in line

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Donald Trump is still peddling conspiracy theories after Gov. Brian Kemp humbled his hand-picked challenger. But David Perdue and several other onetime Kemp adversaries are pleading with Georgia Republicans to rally around the governor.

Perdue pledged to support Kemp in his November matchup against Democrat Stacey Abrams even as ballots were still being counted on primary night, a pitch for unity that was echoed by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and others who had opposed the governor.

“Gov. Kemp met the challenge,” Gingrich told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He used the power of the governorship to fund a large and effective campaign and shrank his opponent’s vote, while his opponent couldn’t raise the resources to avoid being drowned in negative ads.”

The calls for unity sharply contrast with the message from Trump, who earlier this week fired off a mass email declaring that “something stinks in Georgia” that linked to a far-right author’ error-filled essay about the state’s primary.

Even some of the former president’s loyalists, however, warn that Republicans can’t win in November if they bleed Trump supporters in another statewide election. While Trump fixated on his 2020 defeat, Democrats exploited GOP infighting to flip both Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats in 2021 runoffs.

DeKalb County GOP Chair Marci McCarthy is among the pro-Trump activists who took control of party machinery in key counties. She also stood beside Perdue at his final rally before the primary, a May 23 campaign stop at a Dunwoody eatery where his supporters mistakenly predicted an epic comeback.

After Perdue’s campaign collapsed in a 52-point defeat, McCarthy said it’s time for Republicans to line up behind Kemp.

“From what I’m hearing overall is all Georgians are more confident with the continuation of Republican leadership,” McCarthy said. “I believe that everyone in the Georgia GOP will rally behind Gov. Kemp as we all love Georgia.”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

C.J. Pearson is a strategist for Vernon Jones, the former Democrat who waged a long-shot anti-Kemp challenge before quitting the governor’s race to run for a U.S. House seat instead. Pearson said last week’s rout showed Republicans “made their voices clear.”

“While some may have their differences with the governor, what every Republican can and must agree on is that Stacey Abrams can never and will never be the governor of our great state,” Pearson said.

That sentiment isn’t universal among die-hard Trump supporters, a factor that could haunt Republicans in a closely divided state where even small changes in voting patterns can sway the outcome.

Senior Republicans worry that Trump’s backlash against Kemp could also hamper GOP U.S. Senate nominee Herschel Walker, who is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in a contest that could once again decide control of the chamber.

Some of Kemp’s lesser-known GOP critics still vow to sit out the race even if it risks a Democratic victory. Others have refused to publicly endorse the governor. Gingrich, however, expected many to come back to the fold as November nears and airwaves are saturated with more GOP attacks.

“Every Republican in Georgia should back Kemp and Walker to stop Stacey Abrams and ensure the defeat of Warnock,” he said.

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage/Special to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage/Special to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution