Incumbent GOP Gov. Brian Kemp incurred the wrath of Donald Trump during the 2020 presidential election.
Just 11 months after losing his Senate reelection bid, Republican David Perdue has launched a primary challenge to incumbent Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Perdue's last unsuccessful campaign was notable for accusations of bigotry in his advertising and for allegations that he abused his office and engaged in insider trading.
Perdue announced his candidacy on Monday with a video message that accused the incumbent of being "to blame" for his party's divisions. Former President Donald Trump, who has been scheming to unseat Kemp, reportedly encouraged Perdue to run and is expected to back him.
The former corporate CEO and self-described political "outsider" won his 2014 Senate race 53%-45% over Democrat Michelle Nunn. But in November 2020, Perdue failed to win a majority against Democrat Jon Ossoff. Under Georgia law, the two were forced into a runoff election, which was held on Jan. 5 and in which Ossoff prevailed 50.6%-49.4%.
Though he began as a heavy favorite in that race, Perdue came under fire on a number of fronts.
In March 2020, after receiving a private senators-only briefing on the coming COVID-19 pandemic, Perdue made several stock trades that appeared to rely on that information. He repeatedly denied wrongdoing, and multiple federal investigations into whether he engaged in illegal insider trading were closed without charges being filed.
He also was accused of repeated acts of bigotry, including running an antisemitic Facebook ad including an image of Ossoff, who is a Jewish, with his nose manipulated to look larger; mocking his then-Senate colleague Kamala Harris' name and then claiming it hadn't been intentional; and running an ad suggesting Jewish politicians and people of color needed to be stopped "before it's too late."
His efforts to obstruct pandemic relief funding and undermine COVID-19 safety efforts also drew criticism as the number of coronavirus cases soared in Georgia.
Though Kemp too has been a strong Trump supporter, he irked the former president by not doing enough — in Trump's eyes — to steal the 2020 election for him.
Like Perdue, Kemp has amassed a far-right record as governor, pushing racist voter suppression efforts; signing into law a ban on most abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy; blocking Medicaid expansion for 473,000 Georgians; and refusing to implement school COVID-19 safety protections such as mask requirements.
In February, Perdue filed paperwork to challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock for Georgia's other Senate seat next year. But after Trump lined up behind Herschel Walker, a former football player who has been accused of domestic abuse, he switched to the governor's race.
He will apparently have company in the primary race against Kemp, including far-right ex-state Rep. Vernon Jones, who has already announced his candidacy.
The primary winner will likely face 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, who helped Biden turn Georgia blue in 2020 and helped defeat both Perdue and incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the January runoff elections. Abrams, who narrowly lost her previous race against Kemp after he used his office as Georgia secretary of state to make it harder to vote, announced her candidacy last Wednesday.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.