The Jolt: Brian Kemp and David Perdue neck-and-neck in early poll

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
David Perdue to announce run for Georgia governor

David Perdue to announce run for Georgia governor

Gov. Brian Kemp is not the frontrunner in the GOP contest for his own reelection.

That’s the eye-popping takeaway from the first public poll since former U.S. Sen. David Perdue launched a bid to unseat Kemp, Georgia’s first lifelong Republican governor.

The Fox 5 Atlanta poll was taken just hours after Perdue announced his campaign and shows Perdue and Kemp tied at about 34% each.

While the poll is just a snapshot, it reflects the rumblings we’ve heard for weeks from office-holders, analysts and activists who predicted the GOP primary would amount to a true tossup if Perdue got into the contest with the support of former president Donald Trump.

The same Fox poll asked respondents who they would support without knowing of Trump’s endorsement. Under that scenario, Kemp led Perdue 41% to 22%.

Perdue gained from a combination of previously undecided voters, along with some who had previously supported Kemp or Vernon Jones.

The poll was conducted by Insider Advantage, a GOP pollster, on Monday evening. The survey of 500 likely GOP voters had a margin of error of 4.5%.


David Perdue continued his governor’s race rollout with a Tuesday morning interview with WDUN’s Martha Zoller, a former aide to both Perdue and Gov. Brian Kemp.

The former senator asserted that Kemp’s boast of defeating Stacey Abrams in 2018 can only go so far, because Perdue also worked his “rear end off” to defeat the Democrat, and, he said, he convinced Trump to stage a pre-election rally in Macon to turn out GOP voters.

“I promise you, had that not happened, I don’t believe Brian Kemp would have won in ‘18.”

Callers to the show after Perdue’s appearance gave the idea of a Perdue-Kemp showdown mixed reviews, with some asking why he’d create a contested primary for Republicans at all.


Callers to Martha Zoller’s show aren’t the only ones with strong and conflicting opinions about the wisdom of a Brian Kemp-David Perdue showdown.

Steve Bannon, the outspoken former advisor to Donald Trump, called Perdue “a disaster” on his “War Room” podcast.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent details:

Bannon seethed that Perdue is “the last person in the world" who should challenge Kemp, insisting that Perdue was “dead silent" about Trump's 2020 loss, and “did not support" Trump's effort to overturn it.

“There's no difference between Kemp and Perdue," Bannon fumed, in a striking rebuke of Trump's anointed candidate.

- The Washington Post

Closer to home, Trump booster and longtime GOP bigwig Randy Evans quoted himself on his own Facebook page, posting a comment he gave to the AP about a Perdue challenge to the governor:

“If the party comes together, Perdue will be the nominee and then he’ll go on to be governor. And if the party comes apart, which if the bitterness and divisiveness continues with this kind of rhetoric, then Kemp will be the nominee and Stacey will be the governor.”

One high-profile dissenter of that theory: Conservative radio host Erick Erickson, who said Monday, “David Perdue was unable to beat a spectacularly unaccomplished Jon Ossoff. Why does he think he can beat Stacey Abrams?”


Late last night, the U.S. House advanced separate bills to increase national defense spending, raise the debt ceiling and avoid cuts to Medicare that health providers said would have been devastating during a pandemic.

The measures are expected to receive quick attention in the Senate. If approved, Congress will have cleared its calendar of virtually everything it wanted to accomplish by the end of 2021 except for one thing: President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion social spending and climate change bill.

The National Defense Authorization Act was approved 363-70. The “no” votes came from a mix of conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats, including Georgia’s U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jody Hice, Hank Johnson and Nikema Williams.

The final version of the NDAA included compromise language agreed to by House and Senate leaders. Democrats agreed to strip out language that would have required young women to register for the military draft.

The House also voted to avoid Medicare funding cuts to hospitals, doctors and other providers that are set to take effect early next year. That bill also includes language that would allow Senate Democrats to raise the debt limit without Republicans’ support, helping the federal government avoid a financial default as early as Dec. 15.

The final tally on that legislation was 222-212, with only one Republican, retiring Rep. Adam Kinzinger, crossing the aisle to vote with Democrats.

The Senate needs at least 10 Republicans to support advancing the Medicare bill with the debt ceiling language. If the bill passes in the Senate, there would then be a separate vote to raise the debt ceiling.


A possible thaw in Atlanta-state relations may be in the works.

Atlanta Mayor-elect Andre Dickens told WABE’s Rose Scott that he’s meeting with Gov. Brian Kemp for breakfast on Thursday. We expect Buckhead cityhood and public safety to be on the agenda as well.

The incoming mayor also said he will meet with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge in Washington on Tuesday to discuss affordable housing projects in his first term.

And he told Scott he plans to meet separately with groups who support Buckhead cityhood and those who oppose the idea.


Buckhead cityhood will be the topic of the evening Wednesday night at a fundraiser for the Committee for a United Atlanta, the coalition of Atlanta residents who oppose a Buckhead secession.

Hosts of the event include some of the city’s highest profile names, including Arthur Blank, Sheffield Hale, Steve Selig, and Rutherford and Laura Seydel.

The $1,000-per-person event will happen in, of course, Buckhead.


After GOP state Sen. Clint Dixon launched, and then pulled, surprise bills to overhaul school board and county commission elections in Gwinnett County, Dixon was put in charge of a committee to study the issue of nonpartisan school board elections statewide.

We now have word that the committee will hold its first meeting Friday morning at the state Capitol.

A second hearing is scheduled for Gwinnett Technical College next week.


It’s now officially a three-way Democratic race for the newly drawn 7th Congressional District.

State Rep. Donna McLeod filed paperwork to run for the seat on Tuesday, joining U.S. Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath in the race for the reconfigured seat that Republican leaders recently redrew to be a safe Democratic district.


We have our first look at a poll of the newly constituted 10th District, a GOP stronghold redrawn to include more northeast Georgia territory.

The internal GOP poll, conducted by SoCo Strategies, showed trucking executive Mike Collins leading the field with 26% of the vote and former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun trailing with 10%.

All of the other candidates, including state Rep. Timothy Barr, were in the single digits. A whopping 45% of voters were undecided, signaling the reality that it’s still anyone’s race.

Collins is also leading the field in fundraising in his bid to replace U.S. Rep. Jody Hice.

He reported roughly $700,000 in cash on hand after the last fundraising quarter, with $400,000 of that coming from a personal loan from Collins to his campaign.


U.S. Senate candidate Latham Saddler has signed a pledge from U.S. Term Limits, a group that promotes a constitutional amendment to limit the time in office that state and federal office-holders serve.

Saddler committed to cosponsor a constitutional amendment limiting U.S. House members to three two-year terms and senators to two six-year terms. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is the lead sponsor of the effort for this session of Congress.

Saddler also endorsed the idea for himself, saying he’s not interested in a “long-term job promotion.”


Speaking of Latham Saddler, the former Navy SEAL will launch the “Women for Latham Coalition” at an event in Marietta Wednesday afternoon.

He’ll be joined by Star Parker, the conservative columnist and founder of the D.C.-based Center for Urban Renewal.


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