Trump also backed state Sen. Burt Jones for lieutenant governor — and disavowed Jones’ GOP rival, state Senate leader Butch Miller. And he previously endorsed U.S. Rep. Jody Hice to unseat Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom Trump has scapegoated for his 2020 defeat.
Still unclear is whether the former president will throw his support behind a challenger to Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump has also blamed for his narrow defeat to Democrat Joe Biden in November. At his last Georgia rally, in Dalton on the eve of the January U.S. Senate runoffs, he promised to exact revenge on the governor.
“I’ll be here in about a year and a half campaigning against your governor, I guarantee you,” Trump said at the time.
Back then, the president was pleading with U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, the third-place finisher in the Senate special election for Kelly Loeffler’s seat, to challenge Kemp. But Collins ruled out a run for office in 2022, and no other well-known conservative challenger has stepped forward.
Some anti-Kemp Republicans have rallied around Vernon Jones, a former Democrat. But Trump has so far steered clear of backing the ex-state legislator, who has a long record of opposing GOP policies and a history of misconduct toward women.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, shown meeting with Donald Trump, has called for Republican unity heading into the 2022 elections. Trump, on the other hand, has vowed revenge against Kemp and other GOP officials whom he blames for his loss in Georgia during the 2020 presidential election. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
Trump’s allies have also failed so far to persuade former U.S. Sen. David Perdue to enter the race or lure other high-profile Republicans who could rival Kemp.
The governor, meanwhile, has frequently praised Trump’s agenda and sidestepped any chance to criticize him. Kemp and his allies have called for unity as they prepare for an expected Democratic ticket topped by two formidable candidates for U.S. senator and governor: U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams, respectively.
In the final days of his presidency, Trump campaigned intensely in Georgia, holding two rallies before the November election in Rome and Middle Georgia and two more ahead of the runoffs in Valdosta and Dalton.
The latter rallies were designed to bolster the reelection campaigns of Loeffler and Perdue, but instead were dominated by Trump’s baseless grievances about voter irregularities that sent conservative voters mixed messages.
Hundreds of thousands of Republicans who voted in the November election didn’t show up for the runoffs. The most severe drop-offs were in the regions around Dalton and Valdosta, where Trump held his events.
Trump has been obsessed with Georgia since his defeat. Besides endorsing down-ticket candidates, he’s sent dozens of mass emails haranguing Kemp, Raffensperger and other Georgia officials while promoting false claims of election fraud.
That narrative has seeped deep into the consciousness of GOP candidates, many of whom have centered their election campaigns on Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him.