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Why Georgia's Republican gubernatorial primary race matters

It's about Trump looking to replace a governor who wouldn't overturn an election, and finding someone who'll show greater indifference toward democracy.


Georgia's David Perdue had a troubled career in the private sector, with a record plagued by poor decisions and missed opportunities. The Republican nevertheless parlayed his unfortunate business experiences into a political career, winning a U.S. Senate campaign in 2014.

Perdue's record as a senator, however, wasn't much better: The GOP lawmaker was dogged by difficult questions about his controversial investments and whether he exploited his office for personal financial gain. In 2020, Perdue enjoyed Donald Trump's backing, but he nevertheless lost his re-election bid.

Now, evidently, he has a different position in mind. The New York Times reported:

David Perdue, the former U.S. senator from Georgia and ally of Donald Trump, plans to announce on Monday that he will run in a Republican primary against the state's incumbent governor, Brian Kemp, according to people familiar with Mr. Perdue's plan. Mr. Trump has vowed to orchestrate Mr. Kemp's defeat as payback for the governor's refusal to help overturn the former president's November election loss in the state.

[Update: See below.]

The coming GOP primary is likely to be a rather brutal contest, with Democrat Stacey Abrams, who narrowly came up short in 2018, awaiting the winner. But there's also a larger significance to the fight that extends well beyond Georgia.

A primary pitting Perdue against Kemp doesn't fit neatly into any of the typical models we might expect to see when a sitting statewide officeholder faces an intra-party rival. The governor and the former senator, for example, are both similarly conservative Republicans, so it's not as if this is a moderate-vs-conservative ideological fight over the GOP's direction.

What's more, Kemp isn't at the center of a major scandal, which might also make a governor an enticing target for a primary challenger.

Rather, Georgia's race is something quite new: A former president, furious that an allied governor wasn't corrupt enough to help him steal an election, took it upon himself to orchestrate a primary fight. Trump is convinced Kemp betrayed him by following the law, and now he's determined to exact his revenge against the Georgian.

Looking ahead to the 2022 election cycle, we're seeing some related evidence of this elsewhere. In Alabama, for example, Trump is reportedly looking for primary rivals to take on Republican Gov. Kay Ivey because she hurt his feelings. He's also targeted a variety of congressional Republicans whom he's deemed as insufficiently loyal.

But the story in Georgia is qualitatively different and even more dramatic: This isn't just about loyalty or catering to the former president's assorted demands, this is about Trump looking to replace a governor who wouldn't overturn a free and fair election, and finding someone new who will show greater indifference toward democracy.

The Times' report added, "[T]he fact that Mr. Trump has unequivocally turned against Mr. Kemp — and is actively seeking vengeance — has created an awkward and potentially perilous situation for the governor. Polling commissioned by Mr. Trump's Save America PAC released in August showed Mr. Kemp leading Mr. Perdue by six points among likely Republican primary voters. But the poll showed that if Mr. Perdue were endorsed by Mr. Trump, he would leapfrog ahead of Mr. Kemp."

Watch this space.

Update: Perdue did, in fact, launch a Republican gubernatorial race in Georgia this morning, shortly after this piece was published. His announcement video suggests his candidacy is based largely on Trump's Big Lie.