Perdue announces bid for Georgia governor, setting up primary against Kemp

Former Sen. David PerdueDavid PerdueKemp leading Perdue in Georgia gubernatorial primary: poll Perdue tests positive for COVID-19, campaign says Perdue proposes election police force in Georgia MORE (R-Ga.) launched a challenge to Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempKemp leading Perdue in Georgia gubernatorial primary: poll Perdue tests positive for COVID-19, campaign says Trump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections MORE (R) on Monday, setting up a primary fight between two Republican titans in one of the most competitive political battlegrounds of the 2022 election cycle.

Perdue has been weighing a bid for office ever since he lost a runoff election to Sen. Jon OssoffJon OssoffPerdue tests positive for COVID-19, campaign says Missouri Senate candidate says Congress members should go to jail if guilty of insider trading Perdue proposes election police force in Georgia MORE (D-Ga.) in January. He ruled out another Senate bid earlier this year, but had grown more serious in recent months about challenging Kemp, a one-time ally of former President TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Kemp leading Perdue in Georgia gubernatorial primary: poll US ranked 27th least corrupt country in the world MORE who irked the former president last year after he refused to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

In recent weeks, Perdue has spoken with Georgia Republican leaders and donors about a gubernatorial bid. A website for Perdue’s campaign appeared online on Sunday. 

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Perdue announced his campaign on Monday in a video message taking direct aim at Kemp, blaming the Georgia governor for costing the GOP the state’s two Senate seats and, consequently, the party’s majority in the upper chamber.

He also accused Kemp of caving to Stacey Abrams, the voting rights activist and 2018 Democratic nominee for Georgia governor who launched another gubernatorial campaign last week.

“Look, I like Brian. This isn’t personal,” Perdue said. “It’s simple: He has failed all of us and cannot win in November. Instead of protecting our elections, he caved to Abrams and cost us two Senate seats, the Senate majority and gave Joe Biden free reign. Think about how different it would be today if Kemp fought Abrams first instead of fighting Trump.”

He enters the GOP primary with the support of Trump, who encouraged Perdue to challenge Kemp and is expected to throw his full political weight behind the former senator’s campaign.

While Perdue’s entrance into the governor’s race is a win for Trump and his allies, it sets the stage for a potentially long and bruising primary fight that some Republicans worry will hamper them in the 2022 general election. 

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Democrats scored a major win last week when Stacey Abrams, the voting rights activist and 2018 nominee for Georgia governor, jumped into the gubernatorial race. She’s the only Democrat to have entered the contest, and she’s expected to face a glide path to the nomination next year.

Perdue also homed in on Abrams in his announcement video on Monday, casting his campaign as a direct effort to prevent Abrams from taking the Georgia governor’s mansion.

“I’m David Perdue. I’m running for governor to make sure Stacey Abrams is never governor of Georgia,” he said. “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.”

A former Republican stronghold, Georgia has become a key battleground in recent years. Abrams came within 1.5 percentage points of winning the governor’s mansion in 2018, while 2020 saw President BidenJoe BidenNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Clyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes Overnight Defense & National Security — US delivers written response to Russia MORE become the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 to win the state.

Democrats scored another pair of wins in January, when Ossoff and Sen. Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockWarnock outraises Walker in Georgia Senate race Herschel Walker reports .4M raised in latest quarter for Senate bid Senate Democrats urge Biden to get beefed-up child tax credit into spending deal MORE (D-Ga.) emerged victorious from two runoff elections that effectively handed Democrats control of the Senate. 

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Republicans are eager to regain ground in Georgia next year, when Warnock will face election to his first full term in the Senate. Former NFL star Herschel Walker is running to unseat Warnock and already has the backing of Trump. 

But the governor’s race is likely to draw particular attention. For one, Abrams is a superstar among Democrats and commands a following both in Georgia and nationally. What’s more, the primary contest between Kemp and Perdue is expected to act as a stress test for Republicans ahead of a contentious general election against Abrams. 

While Democrats see Abrams as offering them their best shot at capturing the Georgia governor’s mansion, the party also faces strong headwinds in 2022, given that midterm elections are typically seen as a referendum on the party in power.

Democrats went on the offensive against Perdue on Monday, casting the GOP nominating contest as a “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,” Scott Hogan, the executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party, said in a statement.

--Updated at 10:49 a.m.