'Anybody in the runoff that was talking about other things besides the left, and David and Kelly, to me, was a distraction.'
Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday that Donald Trump's lies about his 2020 election defeat were a "distraction" that help cost their party the state's two U.S. Senate seats. But incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler's racist reelection campaign messaging was likely the main reason she lost.
In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kemp was specifically asked whether Trump's false claims that the November 2020 election had been "rigged" contributed to last week's election losses by Loeffler and former Sen. David Perdue.
"Anybody in the runoff that was talking about other things besides the left, and David and Kelly, to me, was a distraction. There were a lot of people doing that, so I don't want to point the finger at the president or any one person. But I don't know how many times I said the word 'distraction' the month before the election," he replied. "I had people literally emailing me on Monday before the election calling for a special session. And the real session started in eight days. That is people getting distracted and not focusing on the task."
Kemp appointed Loeffler in December 2019 to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the retirement of Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson. Loeffler, a very wealthy former financial services executive, lost a runoff election for the remainder of the term last week to Democrat Raphael Warnock.
Kemp said Loeffler "could not control a lot of things around her, or these distractions. It's disappointing because I don't think she ever really got to run the kind of campaign that I envisioned that is what our party needs to be doing right now."
He said, "One of the things that I tried to say early on, to the powers that be, is: You can imagine Kelly, with the contacts that she has in the metro area, being a woman and also an outsider and a business person, I think those tentacles have the opportunity to reach a lot of people. ... And she just never really got the opportunity to do that."
Loeffler had spent most of her brief tenure in office tying herself to Trump — who lost the once solidly red state in November to President-elect Joe Biden by a margin of 12,000 votes — and pushing racist messages, including in her campaign messaging.
She ran web ads featuring Trump using a racist term to describe the coronavirus as he praised her candidacy. She posed for a selfie with a prominent former Ku Klux Klan leader; appeared on a program hosted by a white supremacist; repeatedly called Warnock "anti-American"; and frequently attacked him for his religious faith and for quoting from the Bible.
In the final days of the campaign, Loeffler did not campaign with Kemp after Trump had demanded the governor resign for refusing to rig the Georgia presidential election results in Trump's favor. Trump, who had heavily backed Kemp's 2018 campaign, said, "Like a schmuck, I endorsed him, and he got elected, but I will tell you, he is a disaster. What a schmuck I was. But that's the way it is."
Kemp will face voters next year. Despite the wins in the state by Biden in November and by Warnock and Democrat Jon Ossoff last week, he says he'll win reelection.
"I plan on running in 2022," he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "I'm not worried about any kind of primary fight. We'll be victorious."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.