The Jolt: David Perdue, with Trump’s support, could give Kemp something to fear

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, center, walks with President Donald Trump, right, and U.S. Sen. David Perdue as Trump arrives for a rally Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, center, walks with President Donald Trump, right, and U.S. Sen. David Perdue as Trump arrives for a rally Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Former President Donald Trump’s political advisers seem to be trying to convince ex-U.S. Sen. David Perdue to enter the race for governor.

So far, the Republican has expressed no interest in challenging Gov. Brian Kemp and ruled out a Senate comeback bid. But Trump’s aides appear to be egging him on with a poll from the former president’s own pollster showing that Perdue is within striking distance of the incumbent governor.

It was leaked to Politico, which offers this analysis:

According to the poll of 500 likely Republican primary voters, which was conducted Aug. 11-12 by Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio, only 24 percent “strongly approved” of Kemp, a fraction of the 74 percent figure Trump registered among the same group. It found that 27 percent disapproved of Kemp, compared to just 5 percent for Trump. Overall, 93 percent approved of Trump, compared to 69 percent for Kemp.

In a hypothetical primary matchup, Kemp would lead Perdue and a number of other challengers — but he’d be shy of the majority of the vote needed to avoid a runoff with Perdue. But the poll also tested a prospective scenario in which Trump endorsed Perdue in a primary against Kemp and found the former senator would flip the script, pulling ahead of the governor, 41 percent to 26 percent, giving Perdue the upper hand going into a runoff against the incumbent.

The same poll showed Herschel Walker with a commanding advantage in the U.S. Senate race, and suggested he could be in position to win the primary without a runoff if he decides to enter.

But the more interesting results involved the race for governor. Kemp is still in Trump’s crosshairs for refusing to illegally overturn last year’s election results -- the former president sent his latest anti-Kemp screed just last week.

Trump is also steering clear of party-switching former Democrat Vernon Jones, who carries plenty of baggage, including a long history of misconduct toward women and years of votes with Democrats against GOP priorities.

Perdue would be a far safer bet for Trump to exact his revenge. He’s a loyalist of the former president with a long, conservative track record and a statewide election under his belt. He narrowly lost to Jon Ossoff in the January runoff after emerging as the leading vote-getter in the November vote.

Then again, we’ve seen no public indication that Perdue is interested in the contest. Perdue had somewhat nice things to say about the governor at the state GOP convention in Jekyll Island. Kemp campaigned for Perdue during last year’s election. And Kemp championed a now-stalled effort to tap Perdue’s first-cousin, Sonny Perdue, as head of the higher education system.

Several senior Republicans were skeptical of a Perdue bid, noting that he’s stayed out of the spotlight since his defeat and, equally important, he doesn’t particularly relish the campaign trail.

Plus, senior GOP officials say Perdue told Kemp and his wife Marty earlier this year he wouldn’t challenge in 2022 and would support his re-election.

But others note there is a plausible path for Perdue to run, one that starts with polling numbers showing a tight race and builds to a narrative that only he can fend off Stacey Abrams.

That would set up a Grand Canyon-sized rift in a state GOP already strained by the “Trump Won” crowd. Kemp has made clear he’s running for a second term no matter in who is in the race, and even the pro-Trump poll showed he has solid footing.


Speaking of David Perdue, he is set to speak at state Sen. Burt Jones campaign kickoff in Flovilla, Ga., next week. Jones launched his bid for lieutenant governor earlier this month.

It’s not an exclusive for Jones, though. Perdue also spoke at the campaign launch for another Republican in the lieutenant governor primary, state Sen. Butch Miller.


Kelvin King, one of three Republicans so far running to replace U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in Washington, is making his way around the state on a 159-county tour of Georgia.

Along with meet-and-greets, local media hits and food sampling, King appears to be taking a picture at every county line in the state -- no easy task on some of the highways he’s traveling.

We caught up with King, an Air Force Academy graduate, earlier this week to talk about the unfolding events in Afghanistan.


Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has long pushed for state intervention in Fulton County’s elections, though not exactly in the way envisioned by Georgia’s voting law, our AJC colleague Mark Niesse reports.

The State Election Board launched a performance review of Fulton on Wednesday that could lead to a state takeover of the county’s election board. But the investigation will move forward without Raffensperger at the helm.

Georgia’s voting law removed Raffensperger from his position as chairman of the State Election Board, a move by fellow Republicans to undermine his authority after he mailed absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters before last year’s primary.

Raffensperger previously said he was concerned about the State Election Board, made up of Republican and Democratic appointees, taking action without an elected official who answers to voters.

“I’ve never been a real believer and supporter of unelected boards and commissions, because at the end of the day, you end up with a lot of finger pointing and no accountability of who’s actually making the decision, particularly if the decision doesn’t work out too well,” he said in a March interview with the AJC.

Still, Raffensperger praised the board Wednesday for starting the investigation of Fulton.

“I have been saying for a long time that the state needs the authority to step in when counties have consistently failed their voters,” Raffensperger told Niesse more recently. “I’m confident that the performance review team will do a good job, and I hope Fulton will cooperate with this process.”

The secretary’s general counsel, Ryan Germany, is a member of the performance review panel. Other than Germany, the secretary of state’s office won’t play a major role in the process.

The panel is tasked with investigating Fulton’s elections management and producing a written report. Then the State Election Board could initiate hearings to determine whether sufficient cause exists to replace Fulton’s bipartisan election board.


POSTED: Our AJC colleague Tamar Hallerman reports on the increasingly dire situation hospitals are facing with an influx of children with COVID-19, both in Georgia and around the country.

That coincides with reporting from Channel 2 Action News’ Justin Gray that the 683,000 doses of the vaccine against the deadly virus have expired in Georgia so far because of a lack of demand. Nearly one million doses are expected to expire in the next three months.

Children under 12 cannot be vaccinated, but the adults in their lives certainly can.


We’ve heard from several Jolt readers looking to attend or watch one of the mayoral forums with candidates for Atlanta mayor.

The Atlanta branch of the NAACP will hold “A Conversation with the Candidates” next Tuesday, Aug. 24, at Atlanta’s Friendship Baptist Church. The program begins at 6:45 and will also be livestreamed.


The Georgia GOP has a new executive director.

Brandon Moye has been tapped to oversee day-to-day operations of the party. Moye served as the Georgia GOP’s regional field director in 2020 and was promoted to political director in April.

He succeeds Stewart Bragg, first hired by the party in February 2019, who has stepped down to run Burt Jones’ campaign for lieutenant governor.


State Sen. Tyler Harper, a Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner, picked up dozens of endorsements from fellow state senators for his run. He also announced a slate of senior advisers to round out his campaign.

They include Billy Kirkland, a former deputy to Vice President Mike Pence; Stephen Lawson, a veteran of ex-U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s campaign; Denise Deal, a prolific fundraiser; and Matt Littlefield, who recently worked for Doug Collins’ Senate bid.

The Ocilla farmer’s campaign is helmed by Jessica Perdue, the daughter-in-law of former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.


No Labels, a nonpartisan group that supports bipartisan solutions in Washington, is out with an ad praising the group it calls the “unbreakable nine.”

But you know them as the moderate U.S. House Democrats, including Georgia’s Carolyn Bourdeaux, who are calling for an immediate vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Next week, they’ll have to decide whether they are going to buck House leadership by rejecting a procedural vote that advances the infrastructure package, voting legislation and a $3.5 trillion social services bill. But final passage of the infrastructure bill would not happen under this plan until the Senate signs off on the social services measure, which would be next month or later.

The ad was first reported by Politico.


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