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Georgia gubernatorial debate spotlights divide over 2020 election

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and former Sen. David Perdue (Ga.)
Getty Images/Associated Press-John Raoux
The divisive tone of the Republican gubernatorial primary between Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, left, and former Sen. David Perdue (Ga.) has only intensified in recent weeks.

Former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) sparred on Sunday over the 2020 election in the first of three scheduled debates for Georgia’s GOP gubernatorial primary.

“First off, folks, let me be very clear tonight. The election in 2020 was rigged and stolen,” Perdue said in the first words of his opening statement on Sunday night. 

“All that started right here in Georgia when our governor caved and allowed radical Democrats to steal our election, and because of that, he has divided our party and cannot win,” the Trump-endorsed candidate added.

The false claims about the 2020 presidential election have taken center stage in Georgia’s midterm elections, as Trump lost by less than 12,000 votes in the state.

Trump pressed Kemp at the time to call for a special session of the Georgia state legislature to overturn President Biden’s win in the election, but Kemp instead certified the results following a recount.

“I’ve always said there’s fraud in every election, and when I was secretary of state, I went after it,” Kemp said on Sunday.  

“I didn’t say there wasn’t problems in this election. Look, I was as frustrated as anybody else,” he added. “But the point is a special session would have done nothing to solve this problem.”

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) is investigating whether Trump’s push to overturn Georgia’s election results constituted a criminal act and said she will begin taking testimony after the primaries to avoid claims of political interference.

Kemp and Purdue also traded barbs over other election-related issues on Sunday, including Perdue’s loss to now-Sen. Jon Ossoff (D) in a January 2021 runoff election.

“The only reason I’m not in the United States Senate is because you caved in and gave the election to … liberal Democrats,” Perdue told Kemp during Sunday’s debate.

“Weak leaders blame everybody else for their own loss instead of themselves,” Kemp responded.

Both candidates also took aim at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who lost to Kemp in 2018.

“I want to promise you this tonight if you will nominate me as your Republican nominee, I will work every single day .. to make sure that Stacey Abrams is never your governor or your next president,” Kemp said in his opening statement.

Perdue invoked Abrams during discussion of education in the state, saying that Georgia schools “with Stacey Abrams’s help” are “teaching kids that voter ID is racist.”

“Now, that’s just improper in my mind, I call that indoctrination,” he added, sounding a popular note among GOP candidates ahead of the midterms.

Georgia’s primary elections are are scheduled for May 24, with the winner of the GOP gubernatorial primary set to face Abrams in the general election in November.

Tags Brian Kemp Brian Kemp David Perdue David Purdue Fani Willis Georgia gubernatorial race Stacey Abrams Stacey Abrams

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