Donald Trump’s vow to exact revenge on Brian Kemp has morphed into an all-out effort to also punish the governor’s closest allies.
For the second time in as many weeks, the former president endorsed a little-known Republican challenger to one of Kemp’s closest political loyalists. In both cases, the Trump-backed candidates launched last-minute campaigns against the pro-Kemp incumbents just ahead of a March deadline.
The latest beneficiary of Trump’s blessing is John Gordon, a conservative lawyer who announced his challenge to Attorney General Chris Carr with effusive praise for Trump. Gordon renewed his expired law license last year to help Trump’s failed legal challenge of the Georgia election results and recently told WDUN that ”there is no question in my mind that Donald Trump won Georgia.”
Trump indicated Tuesday his support had more to do with Carr than Gordon, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for state Senate in 2018. In a statement, Trump claimed Carr did “absolutely nothing” to support his false claims of rampant election fraud in Georgia.
“Chris Carr was a disaster every step of the way,” Trump said. “He wasn’t looking for election integrity, but rather an easy way out.”
There is no evidence of widespread voting fraud in Georgia. Three separate tallies of Georgia’s election have confirmed Trump’s defeat to President Joe Biden, and bipartisan election officials have repeatedly vouched for the results.
Up until recently, Carr managed to avoid Trump’s wrath. In December, Trump warned the attorney general against rallying other Republican officials against the failed Texas lawsuit that sought to invalidate Georgia’s election results.
Carr, who opposed the litigation, assured the then-president he wasn’t actively encouraging other attorneys general to join him. At the time, Trump seemed satisfied with Carr’s response.
But that dynamic has changed as a May 24 Republican primary approaches – and Kemp’s chances against former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, another Trump-backed GOP challenger, have seemed to improve.
Trump, who is holding a Saturday rally in Commerce for his slate, has only intensified his push to upend Georgia’s GOP. He’s now doled out seven Georgia endorsements, including Herschel Walker for U.S. Senate and Jody Hice for secretary of state.
Before Gordon, the most obscure Georgia candidate he had backed might have been Patrick Witt, who had been a longshot contender for an open U.S. House seat until he announced a challenge to Insurance Commissioner John King, a Kemp appointee.
Days later, the former president issued a glowing statement in support of Witt in what was seen as yet another sign of Trump’s seeming obsession with damaging Kemp.
Though Gordon has little statewide profile, he has ties to Perdue. The former U.S. senator now lives in Gordon’s coastal property while his new estate is under construction. Perdue’s advisers say he played no role in helping Gordon win Trump’s support.
Carr, a former top aide to the late U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, served as then-Gov. Nathan Deal’s top economic development official before he was tapped to a vacant Attorney General seat in 2016. He narrowly won a four-year term in 2018.
He has closely aligned himself to Kemp and was one of the most outspoken supporters of Kelly Loeffler, the governor’s pick for Isakson’s Senate seat. At a recent event at Kemp’s campaign office, Carr said the governor was the “exact leader that we’ve needed” during a tumultuous time.
The race for Carr’s job is one of the most closely watched contests in the state. Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan and attorney Christian Wise Smith are competing for their party’s nomination, while Libertarian Martin Cowen is also in the running.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association predicted the GOP infighting would drag both candidates to the party’s right flank.
“We’ll get the popcorn ready as the GOP primary heats up in the Peach State,” the group said.
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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC