A simmering war within the Georgia Republican Party is about — what else? — Donald Trump.
The former President — still angry over how Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp responded to the 2020 election results in his state — may get his wish for a credible primary challenger to the Republican leader. Republicans in the state have told WEBICNEWS they expect former Sen. David Perdue to make a decision soon about running against Kemp in next year’s primary, after Perdue allies floated the possibility last month.
At the center of the potential fight is Trump’s false contention that the election was stolen, with the narrow victory for Joe Biden in Georgia as a central part of the tale. Despite Kemp’s call for an audit that turned up no substantial change in the overall vote count, Trump continues to blame the governor for not contesting the results enough and has vowed to back a primary challenger.
So far, no one of note has emerged to take on Kemp and get the Trump endorsement. A Perdue bid for governor could change that.
A match-up between Kemp and Perdue could not only upend Georgia’s governor race but split the GOP at a time when the party’s dominance in the state has been threatened by recent electoral wins by Democrats. Some Republicans fear that a contested primary over the issue of the 2020 election could only further damage the GOP, which, in addition to the losing the presidential election there, also lost both of its US Senate seats in Georgia this year in runoff elections — including Perdue’s.
“I would hate to see two good men run against each other,” said Eric Tanenblatt, a veteran GOP strategist and former chief of staff to former Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue. “Having watched the Republican Party become the dominant party in Georgia, it’s puzzling to me we would see a sitting incumbent Republican governor be challenged by another Republican.”
Georgia Rep. Buddy Carter, a staunch supporter of Trump in the US House, told WEBICNEWS Tuesday that he does and will continue to support Kemp for governor. The Republican congressman added that he does not know what Perdue will do.
“My hope is that he won’t run,” said Carter. “My hope is that we’ll have just one candidate that we can unify behind.”
But other allies of the former President counter that Kemp will be unable to keep Trump voters in the fold. On Sunday, Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and a Trump ally, posted on his personal website that only Perdue, not Kemp, could unite the party and defeat Democrat Stacey Abrams, who has not yet declared but is thought to be considering her own bid for governor.
The result of all this is what one Republican operative in Georgia called a “meltdown” by Kemp’s political operation in its attempt to discourage Perdue from running. Republican critics of Kemphave accused the governor’s chief of staff of threatening potential Perdue allies with political retribution. Meanwhile, Kemp’s PAC and campaign have been hiring members of Perdue’s wider political circle.
“They’re playing hardball,” said a second GOP operative in Georgia.
Kemp allies, on the other hand, say the governor is simply taking the threat of a primary challenge from a former US senator seriously.
“It’s gonna be an all-out fight,” said one person allied with Kemp.
When asked for comment, a spokesman for Kemp’s campaign provided WEBICNEWS with a statement.
“Governor Kemp and Marty proudly campaigned hard for — and with — former Senator Perdue and Bonnie throughout the 2020 election cycle,” said Tate Mitchell. “Both the Governor and the First Lady were honored when Senator Perdue told them personally that he would fully support their campaign for re-election earlier this year.”
Efforts to reach Perdue for comment were unsuccessful.