Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia easily dispatched Donald Trump’s hand-picked challenger on Tuesday in a Republican primary that demonstrated the limits of the former president — and caused widespread celebration by the mainstream media.
Kemp will face Democrat Stacey Abrams this fall in what will be one of the nation’s most consequential governor’s races.
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Indeed, the GOP results, combined with the loss of the Trump-backed candidate for secretary of state, served as a notice that the former president’s endorsement is important — but not a guarantee. Angered by Kemp’s refusal to go along with his extraordinary effort to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, Trump personally recruited former Sen. David Perdue to challenge the sitting governor. He also helped clear the primary field and spent more than $3 million on the effort.
But Kemp ultimately emerged as a powerful candidate able to draw prolific fundraising totals that helped him flood Georgia with television and other ads.
He also won over conservative voters by showing what he could do for them, unveiling a $5.5 billion, 8,100-job Hyundai Motor plant near Savannah in the final days of the campaign.
“Even in the middle of a tough primary, conservatives across our state didn’t listen to the noise. They didn’t get distracted,” Kemp told cheering supporters, before calling on his party to rally behind his campaign.
In defeat, Perdue struck a unifying tone.
“I want you to know tonight that I am fully supporting Brian Kemp in his run to beat Stacey Abrams,” Perdue said. “It’s emotional for all of us, we’re disappointed, I get that. Let’s take a few hours, lick our wounds, and tomorrow morning, you’re going to hear me going to work for Brian Kemp to make damn sure that Stacey Abrams is never governor of Georgia.”
Five states were voting Tuesday, including Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, and Minnesota.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger also defeated Trump’s choice, Rep. Jody Hice, in Georgia. It proves Trump’s endorsement doesn’t ensure victory.
However, it remains effective. In the Ohio Republican primary, author JD Vance was able to cruise to victory after Trump’s endorsement. His preferred Senate candidate in Georgia, Herschel Walker, easily won the GOP nomination and will face Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock in the fall in a race that could determine control of the chamber.
But Trump’s preferred candidates also lost governor’s races in Idaho and Nebraska.
A Pennsylvania Senate primary remains too close to call even a week after the election.
The totality of Tuesday’s contests underscored the sustained power of Trump’s endorsement in Republican politics 18 months after he was voted out of office.
Sensing Kemp’s strength in Georgia, however, other prominent Republicans had grown increasingly willing to defy the former president.
Trump’s own vice president, Mike Pence, rallied with Kemp in the Atlanta suburbs on Monday evening. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also campaigned for Kemp and has been critical of Trump, described his victory as “enormous.”
“I am so proud of and happy for my friend — and just as importantly for the Georgia GOP and the people of Georgia,” Christie tweeted. “They were not going to kick out a great Governor or be willing participants in the DJT Vendetta Tour.”
The state saw contentious primaries for both Republicans and Democrats.
Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath defeated Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in suburban Atlanta after being forced into a rare incumbent-on-incumbent primary after Republicans redrew the congressional map. McBath, whose son was murdered, has become a vocal advocate for gun control.
Not far away, in Georgia’s 14th congressional district, leading Trump ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene easily won her primary election, despite a first term notable for controversy.
Tuesday marked the first Georgia election under a new voting law adopted by the Republican-backed state legislature in response to Trump’s grievances. The changes made voting by mail more secure — a move Democrats labeled “Jim Crow 2.0” and said would disenfranchise Black voters.
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Despite concerns about the impact of the law, there were no major or systemwide issues reported in Georgia. There were sporadic reports of polling locations opening late, minor equipment troubles, and some voters finding themselves at the wrong location — common in highly populated areas.
Early voter turnout was a record high.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.