The Jolt: Some GOP candidates steer clear of Kemp-Perdue civil war

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Herschel Walker is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

Credit: wire

Combined ShapeCaption
Herschel Walker is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

Credit: wire

Credit: wire

Former Sen. David Perdue spent much of Monday making calls and giving top GOP donors and activists the hard sell to support his new campaign for Georgia governor against incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp.

Some immediately backed Perdue, others asked for ways to privately show their support, such as donations to a super PAC. A few told him outright they backed Kemp.

The governor can count on support from Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Attorney General Chris Carr and Insurance Commissioner John King. State Sen. Tyler Harper, who is running for agriculture commissioner, also backed him.

But beyond that, the landscape is muddled. Senate candidate Herschel Walker, who was also endorsed by Trump, doesn’t plan to endorse any candidates this cycle to stay “laser-focused on winning back this Senate seat” his spokeswoman said.

Two other Senate candidates – Latham Saddler and Kelvin King – are staying neutral in the race. (We didn’t immediately hear back from a fourth contender, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.)

State Sens. Burt Jones and Butch Miller – rivals for lieutenant governor – are also not taking sides. Miller, among the state legislators who previously endorsed Kemp, quipped that “whoever the nominee is will benefit from my coattails.” A Miller spokesman later said he was “100% focused on his race.”

And Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, along with his Trump-endorsed challenger U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, are both avoiding endorsing either contender. So is John Barge, the former superintendent aiming for his old job.

(Not surprisingly, Georgia GOP chair David Shafer said the state party isn’t putting its thumb on the scales. Then again, Shafer ruffled feathers in September by joining Trump’s rally in Perry for his hand-picked Georgia candidates.)


David Perdue picked up the endorsement we’ve been expecting-- from Donald Trump.

Trump wrote in a statement Monday evening that Kemp “caved to Stacey Abams before 2020 and allowed massive election fraud to take place,” a claim that has been debunked by multiple counts, recounts and failed legal challenges.

Trump added that Perdue, along with Herschel Walker, will make “an unstoppable team.”


Almost as soon as David Perdue announced his primary challenge to Brian Kemp, pro-Kemp groups unloaded volleys of attacks that targeted his stock transactions at the outset of the pandemic and claimed he was a “job exporter” for outsourcing on his watch.

If the Republican-on-Republican jabs seemed familiar, that’s because they are a newer version of attacks Jon Ossoff and his Democratic allies pummeled Perdue with throughout last year’s election campaign, framing him as a corrupt agent of Donald Trump’s regime.

“There’s something just incredibly special about watching your hard-earned opposition earned-media being used against the same guy – by a Republican,” said one Democratic strategist who helped develop Ossoff’s attack lines.


With David Perdue’s entrance into the race, Democrat-turned-Republican Vernon Jones is the odd man out.

The former DeKalb chief executive has remade himself into a die-hard Trump supporter desperate for the former president’s endorsement. Bypassed by Trump, who quickly backed Perdue late Monday, Jones is under immense pressure to bow out.

We’re told he feels he has some leverage. Staying in the race could theoretically siphon away just enough votes to force Kemp and Perdue into a runoff, a prospect state GOP leaders dread.

So what could entice him to ditch the race? One Jones ally said he could have his eye on a challenge against state schools superintendent Richard Woods, a two-term Republican with a paltry campaign warchest and a relatively low profile.

Why would Jones be interested in the job? Trump hasn’t endorsed anyone in the race yet. And Jones has made attacks on critical race theory, along with support for local control of school districts, a key part of his campaign trail rhetoric.


The former senator’s decision to challenge the sitting governor in 2022 set off a flurry of national media stories. Here’s a roundup of the most notable:

- Perdue made his first media appearance on Fox News’ Sean Hannity Show. Hannity told Perdue, “You deserve to be governor.” Hannity also slammed Sec. of State Brad “Raffsberger,” and complained to Perdue that Georgia should have a voter ID requirement, which it does, and that elections should require an exact signature match, which the General Assembly went to great lengths to eliminate with Senate Bill 202.

In response, Perdue said of SB 202, “It’s not perfect but it’s good enough. Put a new governor in and we’ll get it fixed.”

- Gov. Kemp appeared on Erick Erickson’s radio show to talk about his record opening up the state during the COVID pandemic, raising teachers’ pay, and pushing back “against the woke cancel culture.”

- Lauren Groh-Wargo, Stacey Abrams’ campaign manager, appeared with Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC to call Perdue-- “a loser who is a debate dodger and coastal elite who padded his pockets in the pandemic,” she said, adding, “Those are the lines from Brian Kemp’s spokesperson…we agree.”


Brian Kemp was in David Perdue’s neck of the woods Monday when he went to Jekyll Island for the Georgia Farm Bureau Convention.

The Brunswick News reports Kemp got high-profile praise from Farm Bureau President Tom McCall:

(McCall) said Kemp is the reason Georgia has been the best state to do business in for eight years running. “I'll tell you it's because this guy didn't buckle down to all the fear and all the junk that's on Facebook,'' said McCall, who farms in the Fortsonia Community in Elbert County. “He knows where his food, clothing and shelter come from."

- The Brunswick News

State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, Herschel Walker and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, also attended.


Enough about how bold-faced names feel about the race, how are Georgia voters reacting?

The Savannah Morning News checked in with a group of Democratic activists who dubbed themselves “the Political Rascals,” in 2018 when they organized for Stacey Abrams.

“I’m extremely excited about Stacey running again. I think the message that she had for us in 2018 is only stronger,” one activist said.

In Columbus, Tonza Thomas, chair of the Muscogee County Democratic Party, told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, “We needed Stacey Abrams to run. So, when the announcement came out over Twitter I was like ‘Hell, yeah!’


A group of Republicans in Atlanta were focused on different 2022 contests Monday when they hosted a fundraiser for GOP Winning Women, a joint fundraising committee to reelect 10 Republican congresswomen.

One of the congresswomen the event supported was South Carolina’s U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, who spent a large portion of last week in a high-profile feud with Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

First Lady Marty Kemp and former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler served as honorary co-chairs for the event, while Mary and Eric Tanenblatt and other Republican bigwigs lent their names as hosts for the lunch event at The Betty in Buckhead.


POSTED: When members of the Georgia Swarm, the Gwinnett County-based team in the National Lacrosse League, ran into issues obtaining visas for 22 of the team’s players from Canada, they turned to members of Georgia’s congressional delegation for help.

The AJC’s Tim Tucker has the rest of the story, which includes the offices of U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, pitching in to help.


The race for City Hall is over, and now the work really begins for mayor-elect Andre Dickens.

Our City Hall team has all the details on Dickens’ transition, including his list of to do’s, the names on his call list, and more.


A huge day in Georgia politics Monday called for a special episode of the Politically Georgia podcast, with two of your three Jolters breaking down the latest developments in the governor’s race and what it means for Georgia.


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