The Jolt: David Perdue to Brian Kemp: I made you governor

Former Sen. David Perdue responds to  Gov. Brian Kemp during the gubernatorial GOP debate at the headquarters of the WSB-TV on Sunday, April 24, 2022. Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Former Sen. David Perdue responds to Gov. Brian Kemp during the gubernatorial GOP debate at the headquarters of the WSB-TV on Sunday, April 24, 2022. Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

If there’s one detail from 2018 that former U.S. Sen. David Perdue is loath to admit, it’s that he and his first-cousin Sonny Perdue helped convince Donald Trump to back Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign for governor.

Privately, David Perdue was always more willing to take credit for persuading Trump to hold a rally for Kemp in November 2018 than acknowledge that he was also behind the now-famous Trump tweet endorsing Kemp six days before the GOP runoff.

But in the closing moments of last night’s WTOC debate, Perdue gashed Kemp with a throwback to the last gubernatorial campaign.

“I’m just telling you, the worst mistake I ever made was getting Donald Trump’s endorsement for this man,” Perdue said. “He’d have never been elected without that.”

We can quibble over the veracity of that claim, since polls showed Kemp was already ahead of then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, thanks in part to a secret recording that upended the race.

But it’s fair to say that Kemp wouldn’t have so thoroughly demolished Cagle, defeating him in all but two of Georgia’s 159 counties, without Trump’s blessing.

And it’s also fair to say that Perdue’s public mention of that “mistake” tells you all you need to know about the sorry state of their former friendship.

That was one of the biggest takeaways from the debate, which focused even more on Perdue’s phony claims of 2020 election fraud than Sunday’s showdown.

Just like in the last debate, Perdue relished the role of an underdog. The governor couldn’t hide his frustration at his rival’s constant sniping, but this time he was prepared with sharper responses to his attacks.

Read all about it here.

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Catch up on what you missed this week in Georgia politics with our Friday edition of the Politically Georgia podcast, including the big event in the little restaurant that tells us everything we need to know about the GOP primary for governor right now.

Listen below and subscribe for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.

You can also tell your smart speaker to “play Politically Georgia podcast.”

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In another sign that Gov. Brian Kemp isn’t letting up, he unveiled a new campaign ad that paints both David Perdue and Stacey Abrams in the same light.

The 30-second spot praises Kemp’s decision to reopen Georgia businesses during the pandemic and claims that the two other gubernatorial contenders would have kept businesses shuttered.

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A new 11-Alive/ Survey USA statewide poll echoes our AJC poll this week, with Brian Kemp at 56% and David Perdue at 31%.

But lower down the ticket, we noticed state Sen. Butch Miller narrowly edges state Sen. Burt Jones, 15% to 14%, a statistical tie. That’s better than Miller performed in the AJC poll, which showed Jones with a double-digit lead.

The key factor to watch in that and other down-ballot races is the large undecided group, which is at a whopping 59% for the LG race about four weeks from Election Day.

Jolter Tia Mitchell has more about these undecided voters and what candidates are doing to reach them.

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Speaking of races down the ballot, state Sen. Jen Jordan is up with her first ad of the cycle in her race for attorney general.

Watch it to see a Democrat’s campaign that is focusing just as much on enforcing voting rights as Republicans talk about election integrity.

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John-Miles Lewis, the son of late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, is not heavily involved in politics, but he recently made an endorsement in the race to oust embattled North Carolina Republican Madison Cawthorn from Congress.

Lewis came out publicly for Katie Dean, a Democrat, and said he’s impressed by Dean’s “work ethic, her authenticity and her commitment to working in underserved communities.” He also shared the reason he’s weighing in on a race outside of Georgia.

My dad loved going to Western North Carolina. He visited several times in the last few years of his life. He cared deeply about the region. The events of January 6th would have broken his heart. And for a member of Congress from Western North Carolina to be so involved, I know he would have felt strongly about doing everything possible to see that member defeated.

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Georgia U.S. Rep. Rick Allen announced Thursday that he tested positive for COVID-19 and will no longer be headed on an international trip as planned.

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POSTED: A federal judge has evened the fundraising playing field between Gov. Brian Kemp and his Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams, at least slightly, by ruling that the governor has to wait to use his newly created “leadership committee.” More from the AJC’s James Salzer:

Judge Mark Cohen ruled that Kemp's leadership committee — Georgians First — can't raise any more money unless he becomes the party's nominee. He faces former U.S. Sen. David Perdue in the GOP primary.

By then, his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, will be her party's nominee and be eligible to use the same leadership committee law to raise unlimited funds from donors. Abrams is running unchallenged in the Democratic primary.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Lawmakers in Washington often use letters to other public officials both to advocate for certain changes at the local, state or federal level and also to get their message out on various policy positions.

Here is a roundup of the flurry of letters sent in Washington this week:

  • U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock were the lead authors on a letter encouraging congressional leaders to include Medicaid expansion if they make any further attempts to pass a social spending bill. The letter was signed by 29 other Democrats, including Georgia’s Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, Nikema Johnson, David Scott and Lucy McBath.
  • Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux also led colleagues on letter advocating for $5 billion in election security funding to be included in the upcoming budget.
  • U.S. Reps. Rick Allen, R-Augusta, and Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, wrote a letter to Georgia Schools Superintendent Richard Woods saying they are concerned about lessons on voting rights created by the New Georgia Project and used by Atlanta high schools. Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue brought the issue up during a recent debate after it was raised by Kelly Loeffler’s Greater Georgia.
  • U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock teamed up with Sen. Elizabeth Warren to ask the Department of Education to outline how it plans to deal with student borrowers who have fallen into default. The “fresh start” plan is supposed to be in place before student loan payments restart in September.

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Today in Washington:

  • The House and Senate both adjourned for the week. The Senate is back on Monday; the House is out until May 10.
  • Attention in Washington will now turn to the annual White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, along with the parties and receptions surrounding it. The dinner will be aired live on C-SPAN at 8 p.m. tomorrow.

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State Rep. Houston Gaines, a Republican from Athens, has requested a legislative investigation into a newly formed board in Athens-Clarke County meant to provide civilian oversight of the police there.

The Athens Banner-Herald reports Gaines’ letter stems from text messages sent by a Democratic member of the city-county commission about the make-up of the board, which is meant to be nonpartisan. More:

The messages by Denson were sent Jan. 28, when it was still being determined who would sit on the oversight board. In the messages, Denson instructed members of the chat to “try to make your math work so that the ‘conservative' people don't make it."

- Athens Banner-Herald

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Sticking with the local theme, an Augusta Starbucks has become the first in the state, and the second in the South, to unionize.

The Augusta Chronicle reports the two-day vote wrapped up Thursday, with employees voting 26-5 in favor. The National Labor Relations Board counted the votes.

A worker, who met his wife at Starbucks, reached out to union officials over Twitter and got the effort started.

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The Savannah Morning-News has a lengthy feature on a local effort to have several books with sexually explicit passages banned from the Savannah-Chatham Schools library system. In the article, one activist complains that the “Parents Bill of Rights” just signed by Gov. Brian Kemp doesn’t go far enough.

However, another bill that passed this session, SB 226, takes direct aim at “harmful materials" and sets a Jan. 1, 2023 deadline for public schools to implement a materials complaint policy.

But SB 226 only applies to parents and permanent guardians of children in the school system, which excludes (the activist's) group.

- The Savannah Morning News

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Since it’s Friday, we always like to send you into the weekend with the columns from the week you might have missed, including:

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As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.

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