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EXCLUSIVE – Former Republican Sen. David Perdue on Monday declared his candidacy for governor of Georgia governor, with the aim of defeating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in next year’s election in the crucial battleground state.
Perdue’s move, coming after months of encouragement by former President Donald Trump to run for governor, sets up an epic GOP primary battle with incumbent conservative Gov. Brian Kemp, who for a year has faced the former president’s rath for not overturning the 2020 election results in Georgia.
“Make no mistake, Abrams will smile, lie and cheat to transform Georgia into her radical vision of a state that would look more like California or New York,” Perdue charged in a statement and video announcement shared first with Fox News.
Abrams, the voting rights champion and rising star in the Democratic Party who was considered as a 2020 running mate for now President Biden, last week launched a 2022 campaign for governor. The former Georgia House Democratic leader who in 2018 made history as the first Black woman gubernatorial nominee of a major political party, narrowly lost to Kemp by less than 55,000 votes out of nearly 4 million cast in the Peach State’s gubernatorial election.
“To fight back we simply have to be united. Unfortunately, today we are divided and Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger are to blame,” Perdue claimed, as he took aim at both the governor and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who’s also been blasted by the former president for refusing to overturn Trump’s narrow defeat in Georgia to now President Biden. And Raffensperger’s also facing a Trump backed primary challenge, from GOP Rep. Jody Hice.
Perdue, a former corporate chief executive officer who was elected to the Senate in 2014, was defeated in his bid for a second term by a razor-thin margin by Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s twin Jan. 5 runoff elections. Democrat Raphael Warnock edged Rep. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the other contest, handing the Democrats the Senate majority.
“Look, I like Brian. This isn’t personal. It’s simple. He has failed all of us and cannot win in November,” Perdue argued. “Instead of protecting our elections, he caved to Abrams and cost us the Senate majority and gave Joe Biden free reign. Think about how different it would be today if Kemp had fought Abrams first instead of fighting Trump. Kemp caved before the election and the country is paying the price today.”
Perdue appeared to be pointing towards a sweeping overhaul of the way Georgia elections were administered, that Kemp quietly signed into law in 2019. Some of the provisions, which were backed by Democrats, addressed concerns raised during Kemp’s 2018 victory over Abrams regarding how nonwhite voters were treated. The law, which was approved by Georgia’s legislature, blocked county election officials from rejecting absentee ballots due to mismatched signatures and prevented people from being kicked off the voting rolls due to information that doesn’t match government databases.
“Let me be very clear – over my dead body will we EVER give Stacy Abrams control of our elections again,” Perdue stressed.
Stacey Abrams waves to Joe Biden supporters as they wait for former President Barack Obama to speak at a campaign rally for Biden at Turner Field in Atlanta on Nov. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
The former senator emphasized that “it’s time for a change” and argued that “If our governor was ever going to fight for us, wouldn’t he have done it already?”
“We face an unprecedented onslaught from the woke left, in Georgia and across the country. We cannot keep giving in and caving to their demands. We simply must fight back to protect Georgia,” he emphasized.
Ahead of Perdue’s formal announcement, Kemp reelection campaign senior adviser Cody Hall charged that “the man who lost Republicans the United States Senate and brought the last year of skyrocketing inflation, open borders, runaway government spending, and woke cancel culture upon the American people now wants to lose the Georgia governor’s office to the national face of the radical left movement.”
“Perdue’s only reason for running is to sooth his own bruised ego, because his campaign for U.S Senate failed to inspire voters at the ballot box – twice. Governor Kemp has a proven track record of fighting the radical left to put hardworking Georgians first, while Perdue is best known for ducking debates, padding his stock portfolio during a pandemic, and losing winnable races,” Hall claimed.
Minutes after Perdue’s announcement, the Kemp-aligned outside group Georgians First launched a digital ad campaign and website highlighting what it claimed was “Perdue’s record of failure and self-enrichment.”
Kemp, in an interview last week with Fox News, noted that “David’s told me he was going to support my campaign for governor. Until something happens otherwise, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I can’t control who may be getting in the race.”
And taking an apparent jab at Perdue’s reasoning for jumping into the race, the governor said, “I’ve been in the fight for all these issues … I’m going to keep being in the fight. You know if somebody else wants to get into that fight, you just have to ask them why?”
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, at a campaign event in Athens, Georgia, on June 18, 2021. (Brian Kemp )
Biden edged Trump by less than 12,000 votes out of nearly five million cast in Georgia. The ballots in Georgia were counted three times – the original Election Day count, a mandatory hand recount and a recount requested by the then-president’s campaign. Infuriated with the governor, Trump has repeated vowed to return to Georgia to campaign against Kemp for failing to help him overturn the results.
“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,” Trump said in a recent statement. “But some good Republican will run, and some good Republican will get my endorsement, and some good Republican will WIN!”
And recent polling from Trump’s ‘Save America’ political action committee suggested Perdue could top Kemp in next year’s GOP primary with the former president’s backing.
Perdue, who announced early this year that he wouldn’t make a 2022 bid to try and return to the Senate, has been urged for months by Trump to primary challenge Kemp. And the former president, at a September rally in Perry, Georgia, pointed to Perdue.
“Are you running for governor, David?” Trump asked. “Did I hear he’s running?”
Sen. David Perdue speaks at a Defend the Majority campaign event attended by Vice President Mike Pence on Dec. 17, 2020, in Columbus, Georgia. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Perdue, in announcing his bid, said that his “bold vision for our state is very simple: Completely eliminate the state income tax, it’s time. Make our cities and state safe again. Take charge of our schools – put parents in charge, not the woke left.”
“I’ve spent my life in the real world getting results and creating thousands of jobs. The values and work ethic I learned growing up in Middle Georgia have guided me all my life… and they’ll guide me as Governor,” he emphasized.
Even before Perdue’s announcement, Kemp was already facing a primary challenge from former state Rep. Vernon Jones – a Democrat turned Republican and major Trump supporter.
The Democratic Party of Georgia pointed to what it called the “Republicans’ messy, race-to-the-right gubernatorial primary.”
“Republicans like Brian Kemp and David Perdue have failed Georgians at every level of leadership, and voters can clearly see that the GOP has no real ideas to help working families or move Georgia forward – just conspiracy theories and divisiveness,” state party executive director Scott Hogan charged.