The Jolt: Pro-Trump ticket won’t endorse Gov. Brian Kemp, either

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

If Gov. Brian Kemp can take any solace from Donald Trump’s rally in Perry over the weekend, it’s that the former president didn’t explicitly endorse any of his Republican challengers for governor.

Yes, Trump called out to ex-U.S. Sen. David Perdue from the stage to challenge Kemp in 2022. He also said that Georgians would be better served with Kemp’s 2018 opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, in the office.

“Having her, I think, might be better than having your existing governor. It might very well be better,” the former president said.

Trump also offered some nice words for recent Democrat, Vernon Jones.

But he stopped short of endorsing Jones for governor or anyone else in the race. And he practically conceded that Kemp will be the nominee earlier last week, when he predicted in a radio interview that Kemp will lose in the general election.

The internal civil war puts the newly minted Trump Ticket -- the three Georgia statewide candidates endorsed by the former president -- in a strange spot. Do they agree with Trump’s assessment of Kemp, who might top the ballot in 2022?

We posed that question to all three, who each took a pass on defending Kemp in one fashion or another.

Senate candidate Herschel Walker said he is focused on his own race, as did state Sen. Burt Jones, a contender for lieutenant governor. Jones, added that he’ll be “supporting the full Republican ticket in the general election.”

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who has Trump’s blessing for secretary of state, declined comment through a spokesman.

Kemp may be cheered by the fact that at least some Trump supporters in Perry stood up for the governor, even though Trump’s hand-picked candidates won’t go on the record.

When the former president rhetorically asked Abrams, “Stacey, would you like to take his place? It’s ok with me,” a man next to the stage yelled back, “We don’t want her!”

And Rodney England, a rally-goer, told one of your Insiders, “I stand behind our governor. I want to vote for him again. He wanted to keep businesses open and he fought the Biden administration.”


The fallout from the Trump rally in Perry reverberated over the weekend, as Democrats mocked the GOP infighting and senior Republicans went through yet another round of hand wringing over Trump’s burn-it-down mentality toward members of his own party.

“We have reached a new low,” said one GOP veteran. “I am just so mad -- beyond words,” wrote another. Several more sent texts not fit for a family newsletter.

One of the strongest statements came from Allen Peake, a former Republican state representative who retired in 2018.

“I, for one, will not vote for, give money to, or support any Republican candidate that continues to seek Trump’s favor/blessing/endorsement by bashing [Kemp] and continuing this baseless claim that the election was stolen,” he wrote on social media.

We should remind you that Trump’s war with the Georgia GOP elite extends far beyond Kemp. He did his usual bashing of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and took a shot at Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, too.

It was also the first time we’ve heard him sharply criticize GOP Attorney General Chris Carr, who, Trump said, “unfortunately has decided not to get involved” in the former president’s baseless accusations of fraud.


One of the rally’s first speakers was Georgia GOP chair David Shafer, who led the crowd in a chant of “audit, audit, audit,” before cracking a joke about President Joe Biden’s age.

Normally, the appearance by a state GOP leader at a political rally wouldn’t raise eyebrows. But the state GOP doesn’t usually take sides in primary contests, and this was no neutral gathering. It was designed to prop up Trump’s slate of candidates well ahead of the GOP primary.

Another official under the spotlight for showing up is former Gov. Sonny Perdue, Trump’s former agriculture secretary and one of his key loyalists in Georgia. Perdue hosted a state GOP fundraiser ahead of the event.

Given their close relationship, it would be seen as a snub had Perdue not appeared at the rally.

Yet he’s also jockeying to become the chancellor of Georgia’s higher education system, and his critics say the coveted administrative post should not be awarded to a partisan politician.

Trump called out to several other GOP lawmakers from the stage who were in attendance, including U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Green and Austin Scott, who both spoke ahead of Trump, U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, and U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, whom Trump praised. “Great job, Andrew, thank you,” Trump said.

Finally, Trump gave a shout-out to two congressional candidates from suburban Atlanta districts, Rich McCormick, who is running in the Seventh Congressional District, and Jake Evans, who is running in the Sixth District.

Although the boundaries for those seats will change after redistricting, they weren’t exactly Trump country in 2020.

Trump lost the Sixth District to Joe Biden by 11 points, and he lost the Seventh District to Biden by seven.


Senate candidate Gary Black wasn’t in Perry for the rally, but he wasn’t sitting still, either. Black released a series of ads just after Trump took off that show the ag commissioner awkwardly squeezing into some football gear, before thinking better of it.

“I’m probably not your first choice to compete on a football field,” he says. “But I’m running for U.S. Senate because I’ve scored points for Georgia on different fields.”

Here’s the 30-second version. It’s a clever ad that’s set to get some significant airtime.


In policy news, a panel of federal appeals court judges indicated that it may hold off on ruling on Georgia’s restrictive anti-abortion law because similar legislation passed in Mississippi is under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

More from the AJC’s Maya T. Prabhu:

Chief Judge Bill Pryor of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals told lawyers that it might make more sense to suspend the case until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the challenge of another anti-abortion law out of Mississippi.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments Dec. 1 in a case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, over the constitutionality of Mississippi's ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“The question presented, as I understand it in Dobbs, no matter which way the Supreme Court answers it — affirmatively or negatively — it seems to me that it's going to bear directly on the correct outcome of this controversy," Pryor said.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Separately, Democrats in the U.S. House passed legislation on Friday that would codify the right to an abortion into law. The vote was along party lines with the exception of a Texas Democrat who voted “no” with Republicans.

That bill, H.R. 3755, comes after multiple recent state laws intended to severely limit access to abortion. It has little chance of passing in the Senate, though, since Republicans are expected to use the filibuster to block debate on it.


Today is the day a group of Democratic House centrists, including U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, said they needed a vote on the $1.3 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in order to advance a separate, larger social services spending package for debate last month.

It turns out the centrists won’t get their vote today.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Democrats last night, outlining the week’s schedule, including a vote on the infrastructure bill on Thursday.

The four-day delay reflects the reality that Democrats do not yet have the votes on the House side for the smaller package, even though it passed the Senate over the summer with 19 Republican senators voting yes.

Pelosi is now working on a path ahead, in light of a demand from progressives in the House, who say they won’t vote for the smaller package if they can’t pass it and the larger package, too. But that $4.7 trillion price tag is giving moderate Democrats heartburn. .

Not surprisingly, Republicans are sitting on the sidelines while Democrats struggle to unify their own members ahead of Thursday’s vote.


Wednesday marks the return of the annual Congressional Baseball Game, and Georgia is well represented on the team rosters with the addition of three rookies.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff is playing with the Democrats and U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde will be batting for the Republicans. They join longtime GOP member Barry Loudermilk, who was practicing with the team in 2017 when a gunman shot lawmakers and some officers handling security.

The game, which raises money for charity, was cancelled in 2020 because of COVID-19. But it has a reputation for bringing the best out of political foes in a friendly rivalry.

We’ll be watching to see how Georgians play, but we’ll also be paying attention to whether Greene gets much bipartisan love. She continues to antagonize Democrats, with the most recent example coming Friday.

That was when she spotted a group Democratic lawmakers preparing to start a press conference on the Capitol steps. Greene heckled the Democrats from several steps above. She eventually got into a shouting match with a Democratic lawmaker, yelling about the Democrats’ Friday vote to make access to abortion permanent.

Reporters who were attending the news conference quickly posted footage online.


Fair Count, the organization founded by Stacey Abrams that originally focused on ensuring an accurate census count, is now focused on the upcoming redistricting process in Georgia.

The group says it wants to ensure the maps are accurate reflections of Georgia’s diverse population and drafted in a transparent and bipartisan way.

Fair Count recently released an ad titled “The Joy of Painting Fair Districts” that uses a Bob Ross-inspired character to explain what the group will be watching for in the coming weeks as the General Assembly starts drafting new maps.


The Buckhead City secession movement is not your average referendum effort. As the latest example, we’ve obtained a copy of an invitation to a fundraiser for the Buckhead City Committee -- and it doesn’t come cheap.

You’ll need $25,000 to sponsor the event, and $2,500 per couple to attend.


For your scheduling pleasure today:

* 8:45 a.m.: U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, along with HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge and Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, will tour an affordable housing site in Atlanta. It’s part of Fudge’s promotion effort for President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda.

* 2:00 p.m.: Gov. Brian Kemp, House Speaker David Ralston, and Attorney General Chris Carr make an announcement at the Capitol related to public safety.


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