Gov. Brian Kemp won Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday night, easily defeating former Sen. David Perdue in what became a divisive battle that was amplified by former President Donald Trump.
The Associated Press called the race at about 8:30 p.m., and early results show Kemp winning in a blowout.
Perdue conceded the election shortly after the race was called, saying, according to a clip of his remarks, “You know everything I said about Brian Kemp was true, but here’s the other thing I said was true, he is a much better choice than Stacey Abrams, and so we are going to get behind our governor.”
WATCH: @DavidPerdueGA concedes the governor's race to @BrianKempGA. Perdue says he will support Kemp to make sure @staceyabrams is not governor of Georgia. @FOX5Atlanta #gapol pic.twitter.com/vnVy4lESlj
— Claire Simms (@Claire_FOX5) May 25, 2022
Perdue, a former CEO and one-term senator, mounted a challenge against Kemp in December, charging that Kemp “caved to Abrams and cost us two Senate seats, the Senate majority, and gave Joe Biden free reign.”
Perdue had lost by a razor-thin margin in the high-profile runoffs in Georgia after the 2020 election, while Trump had been defeated by now-President Joe Biden in the closest race of any state in the country. The shocking Republican losses in the historically red state led Trump to blast the election as “rigged” and “stolen” and allege that widespread voter fraud had occurred.
The former president directed much of his outrage at Kemp, whom he has since derided repeatedly as a “RINO” and “horrendous,” almost exclusively because of Georgia’s 2020 election process.
Trump was quick to endorse Perdue in his gubernatorial pursuit, waging a clear proxy war against Kemp, who narrowly defeated Abrams with Trump’s backing in 2018.
“I beat [Abrams] single-handedly, without much of a candidate, in 2018,” Trump stated the week Perdue entered the race. “I’ll beat her again, but it will be hard to do with Brian Kemp, because the MAGA base will just not vote for him after what he did with respect to Election Integrity and two horribly run elections, for President and then two Senate seats.”
Perdue focused on election integrity from the outset of his campaign, and the endorsement from Trump, who is well-liked by Republicans in Georgia, was a defining feature of his candidacy.
But while Perdue entered the race with Trump’s coveted endorsement, and even saw a promising early poll from Fabrizio, Lee, and Associates, a typically reliable pollster, his campaign slowly went downhill.
Polls showed Perdue trailing Kemp by wider and wider margins, while the former senator raised only a fraction of the money the governor raised. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution observed that Perdue, a wealthy businessman, did not self-fund his campaign the way candidates with deep pockets sometimes do.
Trump, for his part, invested heavily in Perdue. The former president held an expensive Mar-a-Lago fundraiser with Perdue, rallied with him in Georgia, and tele-rallied with him the day before the race. Federal filings show Trump’s Save America PAC invested more in Perdue this election cycle than any other candidate, pouring more than $2.5 million into anti-Kemp groups.
Kemp meanwhile had prominent Republican backers like former Vice President Mike Pence and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts come down to campaign with him, and he also had the benefit of incumbency. He was able to spend much of the primary touting passage of conservative legislation like constitutional carry and eliminating race-focused teaching in the classroom.
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 now headed for what is expected to be a highly competitive and expensive rematch with Abrams.
Kemp reported in early May that he had $10.7 million in cash on hand, and Abrams, who is undoubtedly seeking redemption for her 2018 loss, reported more than $8 million on hand in the last reporting period.
A recent poll taken by SurveyUSA provided an early glimpse of the matchup, showing Kemp five points ahead of Abrams, 50 percent to 45 percent.
Correction: A previous version of this story identified Pete Ricketts as governor of Nevada. He is the Nebraska governor.
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