Kemp’s network spends big to keep GOP majority in statehouse

The governor’s political machine is emerging as rival to Georgia GOP
Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during Georgia Chamber Congressional Luncheon at The Classic Center, Tuesday, August 8, 2023, in Athens. (Hyosub Shin /

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during Georgia Chamber Congressional Luncheon at The Classic Center, Tuesday, August 8, 2023, in Athens. (Hyosub Shin /

Gov. Brian Kemp is taking new steps to rev up his political machinery by sending $175,000 to Republican allies in the state Legislature through a powerful fundraising committee that has fast become a rival to the Georgia GOP.

The governor announced the contributions at a weekend retreat of his Georgians First Leadership Committee at Barnsley Resort, where dozens of donors gathered to hear from Kemp’s top advisers, party officials and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The funds will be distributed to each of the state’s Republican lawmakers, save for a few exceptions: State Sens. Brandon Beach and Colton Moore, far-right Republicans who have openly warred with Kemp.

Kemp’s committee also launched a six-figure campaign earlier this year to boost vulnerable GOP incumbents and target a handful of Democrats in competitive districts. And officials say the group will soon amp up its spending in key swing areas.

“While others look to 2026, Gov. Kemp is laser-focused on ensuring we maintain our majorities in the General Assembly, put Democrats in swing districts on defense, and support strong conservative leaders in both chambers in 2024,” said Kemp adviser Cody Hall.

Kemp’s leadership committee has quickly morphed into a parallel fundraising and voter turnout structure that has filled a void left by the Georgia GOP, a once-powerful organization that used to marshal a flood of spending in competitive races.

                        FILE — David Shafer, the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, speaks during the GOP State Convention in Columbus, Ga., June 8, 2023. Legal repercussions have arrived for the leaders of the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential contest, in what could serve as a warning to those who meddle in future elections. (Jon Cherry/The New York Times)

Credit: NYT

icon to expand image

Credit: NYT

Now, much of that work is left to Kemp’s committee, which reported $3.7 million in the bank in July, along with a roster of consultants, pollsters and adsmiths.

The second-term Republican split with the state GOP last year, as then-chairman David Shafer and other party officials openly sided with Donald Trump’s hand-picked candidates over Kemp and three other incumbents in last year’s primaries.

Kemp earlier this year refused to attend the party’s annual convention, which was headlined by Trump, and told high-dollar donors that the 2022 midterm was a sign “we can no longer rely on the traditional party infrastructure to win in the future.”

Meanwhile, the state GOP – which reported roughly $1.4 million in its account in July – has committed to covering the mounting legal fees of three pro-Trump electors charged in Fulton County with subverting Joe Biden’s election victory.

The party spent more than $520,000 in legal fees in the first six months of the year, and is promoting “Fulton Defense Fund” events around the state. So far, it has collected $225,000 in voluntary contributions from presidential contenders to help finance the court costs.

Josh McKoon, the party’s new chair, has aimed to smooth the relationship with Kemp, saying an all-hands-on-deck approach is needed to oust Biden. But several far-right activists elected to key party posts have groused about Kemp and other mainstream Republicans not doing enough to help the state GOP.