Primary Races Foreshadow Blockbuster November in Georgia

Brian Kemp, Stacey Abrams, David Perdue
Ethan Miller, Alberto Rodriguez, Kevin Cox/Getty

The primary battles that have been playing out across Georgia have been some of the most watched in the country, and they are likely only a preview of what is to come in the Peach State’s general elections.

The Republican primaries, specifically, have garnered national attention largely because former President Donald Trump is pursuing what many have described as a “vendetta” against Gov. Brian Kemp and Kemp’s allies over 2020.

Trump has weighed in on not just the top races but also multiple down-ballot races that people typically tend to overlook.

He initially endorsed seven candidates — most of whom aligned with his anti-Kemp mission — and has since added a slate of incumbents to that number, making it 13 candidates total who now have the former president’s blessing heading into Tuesday.

While Trump is well-liked by Republicans in Georgia, some of the candidates he backed early on have been caught up in heated races and are facing mixed prospects in their primaries.

Georgia requires candidates to obtain more than 50 percent of the vote to win their races outright, and in part because of how contested these races have become, some are also likely to necessitate runoffs.

Meanwhile on the other side of the aisle, Democrats have seen a relatively low-action primary season.

The most prominent Democrats on the ballot, Sen. Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams, will cruise through their primaries with little or no opposition and boatloads of campaign cash saved up for the general.

Democrats’ sleepiness is also apparent in the numbers as more than 480,000 have voted in the Republican primary, while about 370,000 have voted in the Democrat primary, according to Georgia Votes.

The overall early voting number, driven by Republican turnout, has been record-breaking in Georgia, as more than 859,000 have already voted, mostly in person but some by absentee ballot.

Republicans appear fired up ahead of what is expected to be a red wave year amid Democrats’ one-party rule in Washington and President Joe Biden’s rock-bottom approval numbers. In Georgia, they are seeking redemption for races lost in 2020, they have a state celebrity on the ballot in Herschel Walker, and many of the primaries are highly competitive and elevated by Trump’s intervention.

GOP GOVERNOR’S RACE

The gubernatorial showdown between Kemp and former Sen. David Perdue is the top race to watch Tuesday night.

All signs point to Perdue losing badly to Kemp. Most polls have Perdue trailing Kemp by wide margins and the former senator has raised only a fraction of what Kemp has during the course of the race. Aiming to force Kemp into a runoff could be Perdue’s best shot at unseating the governor.

A recent Fox News poll showed Kemp up 30 points over Perdue, 60 percent to 28 percent, while a newly released Fox 5 Atlanta poll indicated a bit of a tighter race and Kemp a little closer to runoff territory. That poll had Kemp at 52 percent compared to Perdue’s 38 percent.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, left, shakes hands with former Sen. David Perdue at a Republican gubernatorial debate, Sunday, April 24, 2022, in Atlanta. (Miguel Martinez/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool)

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp shakes hands with former Sen. David Perdue at a Republican gubernatorial debate, April 24, 2022, in Atlanta. (Miguel Martinez/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool)

Perdue contends that the polls are wrong, laying out his argument on Breitbart News Saturday this past weekend that they are not capturing new voters, who he says are “MAGA voters.”

The number of Republicans who have so far voted is “four times the number that voted [early] in ’18, the last time we had a nonpresidential primary,” Perdue said, adding that “the big news” is that half of them “did not vote in ’18. We believe these are MAGA voters.”

Perdue said, “By definition, when pollsters are talking to Republican primary voters, they qualify someone to say if you haven’t voted in each of the last three primaries, we can’t talk to you. They’re only talking to people who voted in the last three primaries. So they’re, by definition, not talking to half the people who have voted so far in Georgia.”

Trump, Perdue’s premier supporter, is betting big on the race.

The former president held an expensive Mar-a-Lago fundraiser with Perdue, rallied with him in Georgia, and is hosting a tele-rally for him Monday night. Federal filings show Trump’s Save America PAC has invested more in Perdue than any other candidate, pouring more than $2.5 million into anti-Kemp groups.

FILE - Former Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, speaks as President Donald Trump looks on, at a campaign rally at Valdosta Regional Airport, Dec. 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Ga. Perdue is building his campaign around Donald Trump and veering to the right as he tries to unseat Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a May 24 GOP primary. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Former Sen. David Perdue of Georgia speaks as President Donald Trump looks on at a campaign rally, December 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Georgia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The president emphasized in a statement Friday that he is not backing down despite Perdue’s lagging poll numbers.

“The Kemp Campaign, together with Fake News NBC has put out a phony narrative that I have given up on David Perdue in Georgia,” Trump wrote. “That is completely FALSE! I am with David all the way because Brian Kemp was the WORST Governor in the Country on Election Integrity!”

Perdue has focused on election integrity from the outset of his campaign, and Trump’s endorsement has been a defining feature of his candidacy. Perdue’s opening television ad of the cycle was a direct to camera appeal from Trump to vote for Perdue and not Kemp, who Trump repeatedly denounces as a “RINO.”

Kemp now dominates the airwaves, while Perdue has gone dark on advertising.

Kemp also has the benefit of incumbency. The governor was able to spend much of the primary touting passage of conservative legislation like constitutional carry and eliminating race-focused teaching in the classroom.

WATKINSVILLE, GEORGIA - MAY 21: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp greets people as he campaigns during a Get Out the Vote cookout at the Hadden Estate at DGD Farms on May 21, 2022 in Watkinsville, Georgia. Gov. Kemp is facing off against David Perdue in the Georgia Republican gubernatorial primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp greets people as he campaigns during a Get Out the Vote cookout at DGD Farms on May 21, 2022, in Watkinsville, Georgia. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

He raised teachers’ pay this year and temporarily suspended the state’s gas tax, while celebrating two giant electric vehicle plant deals — with Rivian and Hyandai — that are set to bring thousands of jobs to the Peach State.

Kemp is taking nothing, including the polls, for granted, however. A spokesperson for Kemp told Breitbart News the campaign is “encouraged about where they are but intends to run a full-court press until polls close on election day.”

Whoever wins will face Abrams, a daunting opponent who amassed $11.7 million in the last reporting period and has worked to capitalize on the GOP infighting as she coasts through her primary unopposed.

GOP SENATE RACE

Every public poll in this race has shown Walker, a former football star, miles ahead of his closest challenger, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, leaving little chance that Walker won’t breeze past 50 percent and win Tuesday night.

Walker is somewhat of a household name in Georgia, having won the Heisman Trophy playing as a University of Georgia running back and then going on to play in both the NFL and the Olympics. In addition to his fame, Walker also has no shortage of funding, banking $16 million through May 4, according to Open Secrets.

Unlike several of his other endorsements, Trump’s endorsement of Walker is uncontroversial. The former president publicly encouraged Walker to run early in 2021 and may have helped solidify Walker’s bid, which came in late August after months of anticipation.

Walker, for his part, has sought to be a unifier in the race, refusing to take sides in the hostile gubernatorial primary and preemptively asking his opponents to join him in a “unity celebration” on election day.

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 11: Former running back Herschel Walker for the Georgia Bulldogs on the sidelines against the UAB Blazers in the first half at Sanford Stadium on September 11, 2021 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Brett Davis/Getty Images)

Former running back Herschel Walker for the Georgia Bulldogs on the sidelines at Sanford Stadium on September 11, 2021, in Athens, Georgia. (Brett Davis/Getty Images)

The approach comes as Walker is gearing up for a general election matchup against Warnock, who is one of the most well-funded Democrats in the country and is currently sitting atop a $23 million mountain of cash on hand.

Democrats will seek to protect Warnock at all costs in the general election, while Republicans will aggressively pursue his seat as a key pickup opportunities in their quest to take the U.S. Senate majority.

TENTH DISTRICT GOP RACE

The already-packed primary in the Tenth Congressional District was jolted in February when former gubernatorial candidate Vernon Jones, a former state representative, jumped into the race.

Trump had urged Jones, an avid Trump supporter who has referred to himself as a “black Donald Trump,” to drop out of the gubernatorial primary with the incentive of an endorsement promise for his congressional bid. Jones had been polling well behind Perdue and Kemp, and Perdue was expected to annex much of Jones’s support upon his exit from the race.

PERRY, GA - SEPTEMBER 25: Vernon Jones, Georgia gubernatorial candidate, speaks to a crowd at a rally featuring former US President Donald Trump on September 25, 2021 in Perry, Georgia. Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, Georgia Secretary of State candidate Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), and Georgia Lieutenant Gubernatorial candidate State Sen. Burt Jones (R-GA) also appeared as guests at the rally. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Vernon Jones speaks at a rally featuring former President Donald Trump on September 25, 2021, in Perry, Georgia. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Jones, who became a Republican in 2021, now has the challenge of overcoming his reputation as a longtime Dekalb County Democrat as he pursues office in the solid red Tenth District.

An internal poll Jones provided to Breitbart News in April found Jones with a slight four-point edge over trucking company owner Mike Collins.

Collins has reported raising the most money in the race, but other candidates have their own benefits. Paul Broun, for instance, has name recognition after having previously represented the district for eight years, while current Tenth District congressman Rep. Jody Hice has endorsed state Rep. Tim Barr to succeed him.

SIXTH DISTRICT GOP RACE

This race is also host to several primary contenders. The district, currently represented by Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), reddened significantly during Georgia’s redistricting process, which forced McBath to run in a different district while opening her seat up as prime real estate for Republicans.

Attorney Jake Evans and physician and military veteran Rich McCormick appear to be two of the top contenders who could flip the seat red in the general election.

The two have raised a combined $4 million and both carry hefty endorsements.

Evans, whose legal work centered largely around election integrity in the leadup to 2020, garnered Trump’s endorsement in May. Evans told Breitbart News Trump’s late backing was “game-changing” for him. The political newcomer has also been supported from the get-go by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who used to represent the Sixth District.

McCormick, however, has the experience and name ID from previously challenging Democrat Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux and boasts support from the conservative Club for Growth, a group with deep pockets that backs candidates who promote limited government.

SEVENTH DISTRICT DEMOCRAT RACE

This race stands out as it pits two Democrat incumbents, McBath and Bourdeaux, against each other. McBath was forced out of the Sixth District and into Bourdeaux’s district after the congressional lines drew the Sixth District to lean more favorably toward Republicans.

Several big names have swooped in to support McBath, including former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Democrat billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s PAC stepped into the scene as well, donating a million dollars to a late ad campaign on behalf of McBath, according to Politico. The pair have a shared interest in gun control, a passion of McBath’s after her son was murdered in 2012.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 11: One day after passing $1.9 trillion COVID-related stimulus package, Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) joins a news conference with Democrats from the House and Senate to discuss proposed gun violence prevention legislation at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on March 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. Democrats are introducing the Bipartisan Background Checks Act and the Enhanced Background Checks Act as part of their aggressive legislative agenda that also includes voting rights and immigration reform. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Rep. Lucy McBath joins a news conference with fellow Democrats to discuss proposed gun violence prevention legislation at the U.S. Capitol on March 11, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Bourdeaux, however, told the New York Times her local bona fides are her advantage in the race.

“If you look at who I’m endorsed by, it is the people in the community,” Bourdeaux said. “It really is very much this very local race.”

SECOND DISTRICT GOP RACE

The Second District has not attracted quite as much attention as the others, but Republican operatives in the state view it as a potential pickup opportunity in the general election.

The district is currently represented by Democrat Rep. Sanford Bishop, who has served there for nearly three decades. Bishop appears to have become a touch more vulnerable after redistricting as FiveThirtyEight shifted his district from D+6 to D+4.

There are several names in the running, but attacks have surfaced against former Army Captain Jeremy Hunt, a frontrunner who is endorsed by former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley. The attacks, summarized in an anonymous website realjeremyhunt.com, frame Hunt as an establishment candidate and “carpetbagger.”

Other candidates hoping to unseat Bishop include Chris West, an Air Force officer and real estate attorney, as well as businessman Wayne Johnson.

SECRETARY OF STATE RACE

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger would seemingly be in hot water after Trump directed much of his wrath about the 2020 election at Georgia and repeatedly identified Raffensperger as just as blameworthy as Kemp in his eyes for Republicans’ stunning losses that year.

Rep. Jody Hice, a fervent supporter of Trump, has forgone his congressional seat in an attempt to unseat Raffensperger, and earned the enthusiastic support of Trump early on.

Georgia Secretary of State candidate Rep. Jody Hice speaks during a rally as former President Donald Trump watches on September 25, 2021, in Perry, Georgia. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

“Wow, just heard the good news. One of our most outstanding Congressmen, Jody Hice, has announced he is running for Secretary of State in the Great State of Georgia,” Trump wrote in his endorsement announcement in March 2021.

“Unlike the current Georgia Secretary of State, Jody leads out front with integrity,” Trump continued. “I have 100% confidence in Jody to fight for Free, Fair, and Secure Elections in Georgia, in line with our beloved U.S. Constitution. Jody will stop the Fraud and get honesty into our Elections!”

Hice and Raffensperger have been highly active as the primary nears, as Hice campaigns around the state and Raffensperger heavily promotes news of his activities in office, such as investigations he is pursuing and the high early voting participation in this year’s elections.

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 06: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger holds a press conference on the status of ballot counting on November 6, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. The 2020 presidential race between incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden is still too close to call with outstanding ballots in a number of states including Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger holds a press conference on the status of ballot counting on November 6, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

A recent SurveyUSA poll found that the pair could be headed for a runoff, an ominous prospect for any incumbent.

Hice trailed Raffensperger by 11 points in the poll, but the secretary of state only hit 31 percent and a plurality of respondents, 40 percent, said they were undecided.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR’S RACE

Another race to keep eyes on is the lieutenant governor faceoff between state Sen. Burt Jones and Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller.

Both appear well-liked among their peers but have become caught up in a costly battle to replace current Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who has scoffed at grassroots pursuits like the Buckhead cityhood initiative and is widely seen as an establishment figure in the state.

The same SurveyUSA poll that found Raffensperger ahead of Hice also found Jones and Miller in a dead heat with nearly 60 percent of respondents undecided.

Some other earlier polling has shown Jones with an advantage over Miller, though Miller has been circulating a well-received ad in the final weeks of the race that promotes his crafting of a bill to protect women’s sports from men’s participation.

Trump’s endorsement is also a factor in this race, as he not only backs Jones but also lumped Miller in with Kemp and other Georgia politicians in February, describing them as “RINOs” who “always talk a big game” but “don’t deliver.”

Write to Ashley Oliver at aoliver@breitbart.com. Follow her on Twitter at @asholiver.

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