• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

Neither Kemp nor Abrams is on the ballot on Tuesday, but both have a lot at stake in the Senate runoffs.

Jan 4, 2021

Trumps sustained attacks on Kemp over his refusal to overturn Bidens victory in the state are making the Georgia governor even more vulnerable, and Trump has threatened to back a primary challenger against Kemp next year. All of that ishurting the GOPs standing in the historically red state at a time when Democrats are continuing to make significant inroads here.
I absolutely believe we’ve got a shot at every statewide office in 2022, said Kelly Girtz, the Democratic mayor of Athens, the north Georgia college town. That would have been true already given the strength of the candidates we’re going to have on the ballot. But it doesnt hurt that Trump is continuing to kick sand in everybody’s face.
Abrams, the former state House minority leader whom national Democrats unsuccessfully recruited to run for Senate this year, is staying far away from the Republicans imbroglio. But the powerhouse group she created after losing to Kemp in 2018, Fair Fight, raised more than $22 million in the final month before the election,registered thousands of new voters and significantly improved Democrats ground game here.
And although she did not attend Vice President-elect Kamala Harris rally for Ossoff and Warnock in neighboring Garden City on Sunday night, Democrats celebrated her efforts to register and turn out more Georgians, particularly African Americans.
On the eve of the runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate, Georgia Republicans are also thinking about turnout to counter Democrats’ strong early-vote numbers. They view Trump as their best asset to gin up the GOP base, but theyre increasingly worrying about the turmoil he has unleashed.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks to the media outside of the Chatham County Health Department on December 15, 2020 in Savannah, Georgia. Sean Rayford/Getty Images
Most Republicans are not going to say it publicly, but while the president has been clear in supporting David and Kelly, at the same time hes been hurting the Georgia Republican Party, said former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a Kemp ally who lost to Perdue in the 2014 Senate primary. And we need every vote we can get. We need unity. And thats a challenge right now.
It wont just be a gubernatorial race shaping Georgias political future next year: The state will have yet another Senate race, when either Loeffler or Warnock will face reelection to a full term. Republicans say their goal is to blunt the Abrams-led efforts to build on Bidens 2020 victory or just play catch-up.
Im excited about the fact that Georgia is a competitive state, that this is a nail-biter, Abrams said Sunday on NBCs “Meet the Press.” And my hope is that Democrats will show up and demonstrate that November is the beginning of a pattern.
Trumps persistent attacks on Kemp are dividing the GOP at a time when the party needs total unity. Rich McCormick, a Republican who narrowly lost a suburban Atlanta House race in November, was even more direct, arguing that Trumps attacks on Kemp make the governor more vulnerable in 2022.
Theres a phrase in the military: You praise in public and admonish in private, McCormick said after rallying with Loeffler and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in suburban Atlanta on Saturday. I really think that we can divide our party to the point that we dont win the next election, when we could otherwise win it.
Republicans are counting on Trump to help put Loeffler and Perdueover the top and thus retain the partys control of the Senate. They view Trumps visit to northwest Georgia on Monday night as critical to getting the presidents supporters to the polls. Kemp is unlikely to attend the rally, according to two people familiar with the planning.
Its certainly not helpful to Gov. Kemp, and the president knows that. But thats the president, McCormick said of Trumps attacks. He fights. When he sees anything he doesnt like, he immediately speaks out. He doesnt want to think about the ultimate consequences of how thats going to affect everybody else, because hes a fighter. Thats what he does.
Still, Kemp has been active behind the scenes in helping Loeffler and Perdue win reelection, and a Kemp-aligned super PAC, Georgia United Victory, has poured millions into the race.
Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the election results has squeezed Kemp between his duties as governor and the president’s desire to remain in office despite his defeat. Trump phoned Kemp to urge him to call a special session of the state legislature to block certification of Bidens win. Trump has since said he is ashamed for endorsing Kemp in 2018. And on Sunday, it was revealed that Trump pressured Georgias top election official to find votes for him.
At his most recent Georgia rally, Trump floated former Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) as a primary challenger against Kemp in 2022. And on Saturday, Trump promoted a poll showing significant support for Collins in a possible GOP primary, writing: Wow, I guess its not good to go against a President who everyone in Georgia knows got you into office!
Indeed, Trumps allies here credit the presidents last-minute push for Kemp in 2018 as the key to the governors victory over Abrams, and Trumps backing in the primary boosted Kemp over his GOP opponent, then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. They say Kemp has failed to return the favor, and theyare prepared to support a Trump-backed primary challenger next year.
I love President Trump. I love America. Brian Kemp does not appear to do the same, said Ellen Diehl, a business owner who says she was a massive Kemp supporter and has a Trump imprint that surrounds her entire car. If I was Stacey Abrams, I would run again. Hell, yeah. If we dont have a good Republican candidate, were screwed.
Collins, whose congressional tenure ended on Sunday, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.
Seth Bringman, a spokesperson for Abrams, said Georgia Republicans are focused on fighting each other while Democrats have been united from day one. And Abrams told reporters on the campaign trail last week that her attention remains on the Senate runoffs, adding: I will let the Republicans deal with their internecine challenges on their own.