The Jolt: Brian Kemp allies looking for truce with Donald Trump

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
071520 Atlanta: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp greets President Donald Trump as he visits Georgia to talk about an infrastructure overhaul at the UPS Hapeville hub at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday July 15, 2020 in Atlanta. The visit focuses on a rule change designed to make it easier to process environmental reviews.  Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

071520 Atlanta: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp greets President Donald Trump as he visits Georgia to talk about an infrastructure overhaul at the UPS Hapeville hub at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday July 15, 2020 in Atlanta. The visit focuses on a rule change designed to make it easier to process environmental reviews. Curtis Compton

What’s the next step in Donald Trump’s feud with Gov. Brian Kemp?

The former president still hasn’t said much about Kemp’s 52-point rout last week over his handpicked challenger David Perdue. And we are told a diplomatic mission is brewing among Kemp’s allies to try to keep the peace.

Few expect Trump to bury the hatchet and endorse Kemp, whom he has wrongly blamed for his defeat since 2020. But Kemp’s camp is hoping for a détente that could at least scale down the vitriol ahead of a November matchup against Stacey Abrams — and the likelihood that Trump will return to Georgia to rally for Herschel Walker and Burt Jones, the two Trump-backed statewide picks who won.

And the last thing senior Republicans want to see is a redux of what Trump told thousands of supporters last year in Perry, when he trashed the governor on stage and said he’d rather voters elect Abrams than a second term of Kemp.

One of the emissaries in this Operation Outreach is Derrick Dickey, a longtime Perdue aide who is trusted in Trump world. Dickey urged Perdue not to challenge the governor last year and later helmed a pro-Kemp outside group that spent big money to boost the incumbent. He and others hoping to tone down Trump’s ire can rightly point to the fact that Kemp never “once said a bad word” about Trump, as the governor often reminds audiences.

What happens next is very uncertain. Two people close to Trump say the chances of reconciliation were worsened when former Vice President Mike Pence headlined a pre-primary rally for Kemp, furthering a split between the two former running mates. Others remain hopeful they can at least minimize Trump’s potential harm in a race where even slight changes in voting patterns could have a significant effect on the results.

UPDATE: Trump signaled he’s not ready for peace talks just yet. In a message to supporters Tuesday morning, the former president blasted out a single sentence, “Something stinks in Georgia,” with a link to false claims about the state’s elections, this time about 2022.


Georgia Democrats showed they’re already united ahead of November, when Stacey Abrams, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, and a host of other Democrats cut the ribbon on the first 2022 coordinated campaign office in Fulton County this weekend.


So what has Donald Trump said about his Georgia flameouts?

“We actually did great in Georgia,” he told a Wyoming rally over the weekend. (He didn’t, losing each of the four races he endorsed against a statewide incumbent).

He also noted that a significant number of people who voted in the Democratic primary in 2020 then voted in the GOP primary this year, which is true and happens legally every cycle under state law.

The huge margins of victory suggest that the crossover votes had no impact on the blowout victories of Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr and Insurance Commissioner John King. But Democrats could have helped Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger cross the crucial 50% threshold to avoid a runoff in this 22-point win over U.S. Rep. Jody Hice.

If Trump is blaming anyone for the losses, it’s definitely not himself. A Washington Post report over the weekend included this:

“Trump advisers said he was angry over the defeat of former senator David Perdue, who lost to Kemp in Georgia, and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), who was defeated by Raffensperger. Trump had viewed both as embarrassments and saw Perdue as lazy, said advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private discussions.


The GOP nominee for lieutenant governor will be state Sen. Burt Jones.

Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller released a statement conceding the race Friday after a lengthy count put Jones just over the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff.

Along with the familiar thanks to family and staff, Miller finished his statement this way:

“I concede this race today not asking for a recount, despite how close we came to a runoff. I’m proud to have taken part in passing our election integrity law last year, and I believe it’s now proven to work. For the sake of our state, I call on all who are advancing to the general election to FIGHT ALL YOU CAN ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, BUT ONCE THE VOTES ARE CAST AND COUNTED to accept the election results.”

Time will tell if candidates in both parties take that advice to heart.


Is this a sign of a GOP shift on guns? Or a meaningless stance from a lame duck Republican?

After yet another mass shooting, this one at a Texas elementary school, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said he’s open to a new debate on restricting firearms. He said lawmakers should focus on “the most obvious problem” — mentally unstable 18-21 men.

“Like an overwhelming majority of Americans, I am ready to have a conservative and comprehensive conversation about changing the trajectory of gun violence and mass shootings.”

Duncan and other state Republicans have consistently backed measures to expand gun rights, culminating this year with the new law that abolished any permit requirements to carry concealed firearms.


Atlanta has stiff competition to land the next Democratic national convention.

A Democratic official told us the city is among four finalists for the 2024 event. The others: Chicago, Houston and New York.


“I couldn’t even afford the o-r in poor, I was poor.”

Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker joined Killer Mike this week for an episode of his “Love and Respect” show on WABE that shows a different side of the former football legend and the Atlanta born rapper and entrepreneur.

Walker talked about his stance on paying college football players, Critical Race Theory, his knack for cooking and sewing, parenting after a divorce, and his role as father of an LGBTQ son.

“All Republicans aren’t right. All Democrats aren’t wrong. The problem is people don’t talk.”

And Killer Mike, who has been a high-profile progressive activist, got the interview started this way:

“The Braves have won the World Championships, Georgia’s the national champions, and I get to interview Herschel Walker,” he said. “This is when you know prayers come true.”

Other tidbits in the interview: Killer Mike said that Walker reached out to him to come on the show, not the other way around; Walker said he flipped a coin to decide between going to the USFL over the NFL; and Walker said that although Donald Trump frequently spoke from rally stages about him possibly running for the Senate, Trump never talked to him about it directly.

“He never asked, so I’m mad at him because he’s talking credit, but he never asked.”

On Twitter, the rapper said U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has an open invitation to come on the show as well.


U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock marked Memorial Day in McDonough, delivering remarks at the Willie B. Hatcher American Legion Post 516′s annual service.

He later stopped by the Atlanta Jazz Festival.

Today, Warnock will host a roundtable on mental health with Georgia farmers and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at Dickey Farms in Musella.

Later, he’ll visit with community leaders and voters at a small business in Macon.


Look for tensions to rise quickly in the U.S. Senate race, especially with ads like the 30-second spot the Democratic Super PAC Progress Action Fund has unveiled focusing on Herschel Walker’s first wife’s allegations of domestic violence.

“Herschel Walker. Right for Abusers. Wrong for Georgia,” the ad says. The PAC said the “six figure” ad buy will run in streaming services and connected TVs beginning this week.


A recount of votes cast in last week’s primary election continues in DeKalb County.

Programming errors with voting equipment made the initial election results of a county commission race inaccurate, and those same errors also affected the first recount attempt that started Saturday. So now, votes from 40 precincts are being counted by hand.

The AJC’s Kelly Yamanouchi reported that by Monday afternoon workers had finished counting all of the election day ballots and started on early in-person ballots before starting on votes received by mail.


In endorsement news:

* Chris West, who is in the runoff for the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District, is picking up more endorsements from fellow competitors. The latest are Vivian Childs and Paul Whitehead.

West will also be the beneficiary of a fundraiser in Thomasville Thursday night with a host committee made up of some of the heaviest GOP hitters in the state. Among the names that caught our eyes: Alec Poitevint, Rankin Smith, state Sen. Dean Burke, Steve Hufstetler, William Crozer, Jay Flowers and Lang Flowers.

* Jake Evans, who made it to the Republican runoff in the 6th Congressional District, received an endorsement from primary competitor Byron Gatewood.


Today in Washington:

  • Both the House and Senate are out this week.
  • President Joe Biden will meet with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to discuss the economy.


Our condolences to the many family and friends of former First Lady Betty Foy Sanders, who has died at the age of 95.

Sanders was the wife of the late Gov. Carl Sanders, who served as governor from 1963 to 1967. She was also a talented artist in her own right and is the namesake of Georgia Southern University’s Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced her death over the weekend and released a statement saying Sanders “represented so much of what makes Georgia the greatest state in our nation to call home. With her sharp wit, class, and famous sense of humor, she was the epitome of a southern woman.”


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