As Gov. Brian Kemp and other top Republicans distance themselves from the Georgia GOP, the state party is moving to the far right for a significant upcoming event.
Once a regular draw for governors and party elders, the state GOP is heralding U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene as the headliner for its June 29 Foundation Breakfast.
It’s the latest evidence that top officials are steering clear of the state GOP after party Chair David Shafer appeared to align himself with challengers in last month’s Republican primary backed by former President Donald Trump, including former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who were shellacked by incumbents.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week that senior Republicans are searching for ways to circumvent the state party, perhaps through the use of a newly created leadership committee that can receive unlimited donations and coordinate with campaigns.
The state party’s reliance on Greene, shunned by many mainstream Republicans, is a sign that Shafer “cannot get anyone else to participate,” former state Rep. Scot Turner said.
“He has carved off a small portion of the GOP voters in an effort to claim relevance,” said Turner, a frequent critic of Shafer’s. “The voters spoke clearly on May 24 that his direction for the party doesn’t match their desires.”
Top Republican officials have moved to distance themselves from Greene, who has a long history of hateful, xenophobic and antisemitic remarks, along with social media posts endorsing violence against political opponents.
Republican U.S. Senate nominee Herschel Walker backed out of Greene’s pro-gun rally in March after she spoke at a white supremacist rally that cheered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kemp and other statewide elected officials keep her at arm’s length.
Similarly, Kemp and other top officials have avoided other recent state GOP events, including the party’s major fundraising gala in April. Instead, they spent the evening at a pondside cookout in rural southeast Georgia that benefited law enforcement officials.
The state party declined to comment on the rift, though Executive Director Brandon Moye previously said Shafer has “promoted neutrality to all staff.” His statement did not deny that Shafer personally backed Trump-endorsed candidates in the primary.
Jason Shepherd, a former Cobb County GOP chair, said the upcoming event featuring Greene is a sign the state party is in “disarray.”
“It illustrates the fact that David Shafer has alienated the party from most of our elected officials,” said Shepherd, who last year unsuccessfully challenged Shafer for the party chairmanship.
“He’s taken sides in the primaries and he thought people didn’t notice,” Shepherd said. “Now no one wants to help him.”