ATLANTA — In a landslide victory that represented a resounding rebuke from Donald Trump, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia won the Republican nomination for a second term on Tuesday, fending off a primary challenge fueled by Trump and delivering the former president his most major electoral setback for the 2022 primaries.
Trump had made defeating Kemp a top priority, seeking revenge for the governor’s decision to certify Georgia’s 2020 election and not acquiesce to the former president’s subversion demands. Trump personally recruited former Sen. David Perdue to run for governor, worked to clear the land for him, recorded TV commercials, hosted a rally, and even transferred $2.64 million from his political accounts for the to help.
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Kemp still won – leading by around 50 percentage points with nearly three-quarters of the vote counted, more than enough to avoid a runoff.
Perdue had anchored his candidacy on promoting fraud lies about the last election, blaming Kemp for both Trump’s defeat and his own loss in a 2021 runoff that gave Democrats control of the Senate.
Tuesday’s result revealed the limits of Trump’s sway over his party base, marking the third week in a row that a candidate he backed for governor has lost. It was also a sign of the waning potency of Trump’s obsession with reviving his 2020 loss two years later as his pick to unseat the secretary of state also trailed.
Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey and former adviser to Trump, who had campaigned with Kemp, celebrated on Twitterstating that voters had rejected “the DJT Vendetta Tour”.
The victory for Kemp, 58, sets up a rematch of his 2018 battle with Stacey Abrams, 48, who won the Democratic nomination unopposed on Tuesday, in what will be one of the longest gubernatorial races. most watched in the country this fall. His most pressing imperative is to reunite a Republican party fractured by the divisive primary.
Standing on the artificial turf of a football field inside the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta, Kemp refused to rhetoric football. He thanked his opponent “for the lively debate” and said Perdue had endorsed him in a phone call.
In a moment that underscored the bitterness of the race, Perdue said in a short concession speech that “everything I said about Brian Kemp was true” while urging his supporters to rally against Abrams, calling Kemp a “much better choice”.
While Georgia received the headliner on Tuesday, several other states held primaries, including Texas, where a mass shooting at an elementary school left 19 dead and a nation in mourning. Kemp had delayed his victory speech until President Joe Biden spoke about the tragedy from the White House.
In Georgia’s U.S. Senate race, Herschel Walker, the former University of Georgia football star who was also recruited by Trump, won the Republican nomination and will face Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, in November. . The fall clash, the outcome of which could swing Senate control, is a rare Southern general election pitting two black candidates against each other.
As Walker has weathered the primary, her tumultuous past — including accusations of domestic abuse and her exaggerated and false claims about her business success — is set to receive more airing in the general election.
Both parties expect Walker to be the subject of upcoming advertisements questioning his competence and credentials. His Democratic opponent, Warnock, 52, one of the nation’s top fundraisers, has already been on TV for months, focusing largely on positive messaging.
With nearly 200 endorsements so far, Trump has framed the 2022 primary season as an ongoing referendum on his influence within the party. He had notable big hits, such as JD Vance in Ohio, and suffered losses in Nebraska and Idaho. But so far, no state has captured Trump’s attention more than Georgia, where he has moved not only to oust the governor, but also Kemp’s allies in other state offices.
Trump’s choice for attorney general was lost in a landslide, and his choice for insurance commissioner was also far behind. His pick for the open office of lieutenant governor was ahead but possibly heading for a runoff.
In the race for Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, the Republican incumbent whom Trump has lobbied to “find” enough votes to void the election in early 2021, was significantly ahead of a Trump-backed challenger, Rep. Jody Hice, hovering just around the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
The Secretary of State is Georgia’s top election official, and the winner in the fall will have a big influence on how the 2024 presidential campaign is conducted in a key battleground state.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, the right-wing fire brand, easily brushed off a more moderate challenger, winning more than two-thirds of the vote.
In Texas, the last scion of the Bush political dynasty, Land Commissioner George P. Bush, was defeated in the race for state attorney general, losing to scandal-ridden incumbent Ken Paxton. And in a Democratic contest along the border, Rep. Henry Cuellar, one of the more moderate Democrats in the House, deadlocked against a progressive challenge from Jessica Cisneros that captured national attention.
In Alabama, three Republican candidates were vying for the second round to succeed incumbent Senator Richard Shelby: Rep. Mo Brooks; Mike Durant, the helicopter pilot featured in “Black Hawk Down”; and Katie Britt, Shelby’s former chief of staff. Trump originally endorsed Brooks in early 2021. But as Brooks plummeted in the polls, he rescinded that endorsement.
Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama was looking to avoid a runoff against two right-wing challengers.
And in Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary and daughter of former Governor Mike Huckabee, easily won the Republican primary for Governor and Senator John Boozman of Arkansas. avoided a runoff against Jake Bequette, a former soccer star, in a race that saw more than $7 million in TV ads.
In Georgia, Kemp had methodically locked in support from the state’s biggest political players and donors in anticipation of a Trump-fueled primary challenge. He signed into law many Conservative priorities, including a restrictive new election law in 2021 and a gas tax holiday that extends just after the primary. He also expanded gun rights, increased teachers’ salaries and sent tax refund checks that have been issued in recent weeks.
All of these maneuvers and more have left Perdue isolated, with little support beyond the backing of Trump, who has been seething for 18 months over Kemp’s refusal to try to overturn the 2020 election results in his State.
“His endorsement is still important, but it comes with an asterisk,” said Stephen Lawson, a Georgia-based Republican strategist, adding that the failed Perdue campaign was “positive proof that your message needs to be more than that”.
Even before the election was over, Perdue’s own allies began to openly criticize Perdue’s effort as lackluster. And many national Republicans rallied behind Kemp, as the Republican Governors Association took the unusual step of stepping in to spend more than $5 million on ads in the primary. Ambitious potential Republican 2024 presidential candidates have campaigned for him, including former Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and, on the eve of the election, former Vice President Mike Pence.
Despite Trump’s anger and public attacks, Kemp never hit back at the former president. “I never said anything bad about him,” Kemp said Monday. “I have no intention of doing this. I’m not mad at him. I think he’s just mad at me.
Now Kemp must hope the discipline pays off and that Trump — who mused at a Georgia rally last fall that Abrams “could be better than having your current governor” — isn’t actively working for torpedo it in November.
Walker tried to stay neutral in the governor’s primary, refusing to endorse or even say who he was voting for. The 60-year-old political newcomer avoided debate during the primary and mostly ignored his rivals in a field that included Georgia Agriculture Secretary Gary Black.
Black had repeatedly warned that untested Walker would prove ineligible — “he will never win,” Black said in a recent interview — and that Republicans would come to regret his anointing.
One of the ways Trump tried to smooth the way for Perdue was to push another ally, Vernon Jones, out of the gubernatorial race and into an open contest in Congress.
Georgia Republicans redrew district lines ahead of 2022, cramming two House Democrats into the same suburban Atlanta district and diluting the Democratic strength of another seat in the southwestern corner of the state held by Rep. Sanford Bishop. Bishop, a Democrat, faces his first serious challenge in years this fall.
As a result, Republicans could increase their share of the congressional delegation. from 8-6 to 10-4.
In the primary that pitted two Democratic incumbents against each other, Rep. Lucy McBath defeated Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux on Tuesday.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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