GOP Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia urged Republicans to remain engaged as he formally launched his 2022 reelection campaign.
“We need everyone engaged, because we know the Democrats are united,” Kemp told a crowd of supporters Saturday at his campaign kickoff at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, a solidly conservative part of the Peach State.
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Georgia was long a reliably red state. But now-President Biden narrowly edged then-President Trump in Georgia in November, becoming the first Democrat to win the state in a presidential election in more than a quarter-century. And two months later, the Democrats swept the state’s twin Senate runoff contests, giving them the majority in the chamber.
Kemp, working to shore up his base, closed his speech by arguing that the Democrats have overplayed their hand in Georgia. “Make no mistake. They’re going to continue to cancel conservatives across the country,” he said. “They are trying to go after anyone in the country that doesn’t share their values.”
In 2018, with the support of Trump, Kemp narrowly defeated Democratic voting rights champion and former state legislative leader Stacey Abrams to win the governorship. While she hasn’t announced her intentions, it’s very likely Abrams will run again for governor next year.
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But as he runs for reelection, Kemp faces Trump’s wrath.
Trump has vowed to return to Georgia to campaign against Kemp, to punish his onetime ally for refusing to help the then-president’s efforts last year to overturn the election results 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 president’s campaign.
Trump refused to concede to Biden and claimed for two months that there was massive voter fraud in Georgia and five other states where Biden narrowly won. Dozens of legal challenges by Trump and his allies were shot down, and then-Attorney General William Barr said his Justice Department had not seen fraud on the kind of scale that could flip the election. Trump repeatedly attacked Kemp for refusing to aid his attempts to reverse Biden’s victory.
At a rally in Georgia on the eve of the state’s twin Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections, Trump pledged, “I’ll be here in about a year and a half campaigning against your governor.”
Kemp is now facing at least one primary challenge, from former state lawmaker Vernon Jones, a Democrat turned Republican and a leading Black Trump supporter in Georgia.
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Jones announced this week that he brought in $650,000 in fundraising in the first 10 weeks of his campaign, which he touted was more than any other gubernatorial challenger at this point in a race in Georgia history.
Kemp also revealed his fundraising figures, announcing he hauled in $3.9 million over the past three months, with roughly $9.2 million in his campaign coffers with a year to go until the Georgia primary.