The Jolt: Former Sen. David Perdue is back...for Gov. Brian Kemp

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Former Sen. David Perdue on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Augusta, Georgia. He has announced he won't run for a Senate seat in 2022. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Former Sen. David Perdue on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Augusta, Georgia. He has announced he won't run for a Senate seat in 2022. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

The Georgia GOP convention that kicks off today will be shaped by two glaring absences -- and a surprising call for unity.

First, the unity. After staying mostly out of sight since his loss in January to Sen. Jon Ossoff, we’re told that former U.S. Sen. David Perdue will introduce Gov. Brian Kemp on Saturday when Kemp addresses hundreds of GOP activists.

Many of those activists still fault Kemp for Donald Trump’s November defeat in Georgia, but there’s hope Perdue’s special appearance may change that.

Kemp and Perdue were never particularly cozy, and the former senator’s decision to return to the spotlight -- albeit briefly -- to champion Kemp should be seen as an important circling-of-the-wagons for the GOP ahead of 2022.

Perdue was one of Trump’s most loyal allies in the U.S Senate, and Kemp’s team hopes his support for the first-term governor goes a long way in tamping down the backlash he still faces for refusing to illegally overturn Trump’s loss.

Separately, the former senator’s first-cousin, former governor and Trump USDA chief Sonny Perdue, offered his own endorsement of Kemp in an interview with one of your Insiders. (Sonny, it should be noted, is also jockeying for a powerful higher education post with Kemp’s blessing.)

“Anytime anybody runs for reelection, they have work to do. I think Gov. Kemp is prepared to do that work, and at the end of the day, people will unite around a candidate they believe will be successful in November 2022,” Sonny Perdue said. “Gov. Kemp will do what it takes.”

Now the absences. We noted yesterday that both Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan won’t be at the weekend meeting. Not because they don’t want to attend, but because they weren’t invited.

On Thursday evening, we heard from Duncan deputy Macy McFall, who said the lieutenant governor is “disappointed” about the snub but undeterred in his quest for a GOP 2.0 to position the party in a post-Trump era.

From McFall:

“A quick glance at his conservative track record under the Gold Dome should be reason enough for him to have a front row seat. Republican elected officials have established Georgia as the number one state to do business and a great place to raise a family.

“Conservative-led policies have made us the envy of other states across the country - and this should be a time to rally around that fact. But unfortunately, the current party leadership is only concerned with making a point instead of a difference.”

Asked about it earlier this week, Duncan said in an interview with one of your Insiders, “I really haven’t spent any time thinking about it. I just think that the Republican Party that I’m a part of is so much bigger than just one event. I’m trying to heal and rebuild this thing.”

(Keep in mind this important context: GOP chair David Shafer, who decides the weekend invite list, narrowly lost his own bid to be lieutenant governor to Duncan in the 2018 Republican runoff, and the two remain bitter rivals.)


You’ve heard Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan talk about “GOP 2.0,” his vision of the path he thinks the Republican Party should take in the future.

Soon you’ll be able to read about GOP 2.0 in Duncan’s book, due out in September, called (you guessed it) “GOP 2.0: How the 2020 Election Can Lead to a Better Way Forward for America’s Conservative Party.”

Duncan landed a book deal with Simon & Schuster in the wake of Georgia’s headline-grabbing November elections.

The publisher describes it as, “refreshing and reinvigorating,” and, “both a book and a movement.” And because we love a book blurb, here’s more:

“As Lt. Governor of the State of Georgia, Geoff Duncan never expected to find himself in the national spotlight – or in the crosshairs of the President of the United States. Then the 2020 Election and its aftermath brought the nation’s attention to Georgia. Amidst a hurricane of conspiracy and misinformation, Duncan spoke up for truth, conservative values, and the Republican Party he knows.”


Images of 145,000 ballots cast during the 2020 general election, obtained under the state’s new public record laws, have been made public. Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed new rules making ballots cast public.

The AJC’s Mark Niesse reports that the trove obtained Thursday includes a picture of every ballot and bubbled-in oval, followed by a printed page verifying how voting machines counted each race.


There’s a Georgia connection to the lawsuit filed in New York federal court against Major League Baseball by a conservative business lobby-- and it’s not just the All Star game that was meant to be played in Cobb County before the MLB moved it to Denver.

Jolt readers flagged for us that the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, is a former Georgian herself.

Caproni grew up in Columbus, graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1979, clerked for the late Judge Phyllis A. Kravitch in Atlanta, and then went on to a high-profile career, both in private practice in New York City and government service.

She served as the FBI’s General Counsel during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations before being appointed to the federal bench by Obama.

Caproni has close family in Georgia and, apparently, many fans in the Jolt readership.


The Georgia Board of Education followed Gov. Brian Kemp’s demand on Thursday by putting limits on classroom discussions of racism and historical events.

As the AJC’s Ty Tagami reports, the “no” votes included two of the board’s three Black members. And though the resolution doesn’t use the phrase “critical race theory,” it addresses the concerns raised by leading critics.


U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock continued his statewide swing Thursday with a rainy visit to the Georgia Ports Authority and the freight and shipping operations at Garden City Terminal.

On Wednesday, Warnock visited the West Point Kia Plant and the JSTARS unit at Robins Air Force Base, which the Biden Administration announced last week will be phased out to make way for a new space-based surveillance and deployment system at Robins.

The senator tied the visits together in a pitch for additional infrastructure spending in the state through President Joe Biden’s “American Jobs Plan.”


One detail that may catch your eye in this Insider’s report, about former Gov. Sonny Perdue’s interest in becoming chancellor of the University System of Georgia, is just how well the job pays.

The current chancellor, Steve Wrigley, made $524,000 last year -- more proof that education is indeed the path to a high-paying career.


Former state Sen. Steve Farrow is running for election again, but not for his old job at the Capitol. Instead, the Dalton Daily Citizen-News reports Farrow plans to challenge his Ward 4 Dalton city councilman Gary Crews for his job on the city council.

Along with two terms in the state Senate, Farrow also served on the powerful State Board of Transportation and was a Sonny Perdue appointee to the State Ethics Commission.

He told the paper he feels “that my entire professional and public service career have led to this juncture.”


We’ll have a full report from this weekend’s Georgia GOP convention in Jekyll Island for you on Monday.

In the meantime, we pass along this week’s columns for your weekend reading pleasure, including:

  • Jamie Dupree’s Washington Insider column on Washington Republicans attacking Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, for votes that never happened;
  • Wednesday’s Political Insider column on Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and his real interest in jumping into the Senate race against U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock;
  • A preview of this Sunday’s Political Insider column on Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and his split from the Georgia GOP apparatus to launch his own “national movement” to build a post-Trump Republican party.


As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to